The priest begins mass: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of the Father and Grace of the Holy Spirit be with each of you.” And we respond: “And with your spirit.” How many of us accept the greeting? And how many of us expect him to then say “Good morning.” Do we realize that we have just been greeted in the most profound way, and with the strongest blessing that can be given to someone, or even remember how powerful of a statement it is to claim One name of God in three?
Common sense tells us that there is no way that three could equal one. And if there is a Father and a Son, then the Son must come from the Father and the Father must have been before the Son, in order to give birth to the Son; The Father must be more than the Son as any child is born as a piece of and something less than their mother and father; and they must be different, no matter how metaphorical and abstract our poetry may be a son is not the father, nor the father a son, which means that they are two gods, along with the Spirit who is a third. Monotheism and the belief in One True God can not abide a Trinity, unless, if we insist that there is only one God, then these three must not be different, but the same God coming to His people in different ways: the Father is God when He created the heavens and the earth, He is the Son when Jesus walked and spoke with his disciples, and He is the Spirit when He descended upon the apostles at Pentecost and spoke to Moses through the fiery bush. And if this is true, then who did Jesus pray to when he addressed the Father on the night of his arrest? How did the Spirit descend upon him after John baptized him in the Jordan?
The idea of a trinitarian God, of three persons in One and these three named in a single name seems to defy everything we know about the world around us, and it was no different for the early years of the church. All of these points, and many more, were argued over for centuries. The trinitarian nature and identity of God was such a controversial issue of the faith that bishops were thrown into prison and into exile; heretics were killed for claiming either that Jesus was a little less than a God or that He was only God temporarily; accusations were so elaborate that one theologian, who had been accused of cutting off the hands of a priest had to present the priest to the pope, with both hands still attached. It is sad to say, that these things, along with every kind of political shenanigan we can imagine went on in church for centuries, but that they did is a part of our human history, the history of the Church and our struggle to understand just what it meant for God to have walked among us, to have died for us, and to be raised from the dead. One can also reasonably argue that our understanding of the Trinity is the source of the division between the Eastern and Western Catholic churches. We do not fight, and divide and go to such great efforts over small matters.
Can we imagine, in our time and culture, of even being in an argument over the name of the Holy Trinity? Do we ever pause to think about what it means that the Son is truly God and present at the foundations of the World, that in the “beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...” or that when we call upon the Holy Spirit, Christ and the Father are both present? Do we ever think about what it means that when the Son is nailed to the Cross for our redemption, that so too are the Father and the Spirit? Have we considered how their share in the same event may have something to do when a husband or wife (or a mother) may say, “when you cry, I cry; when you bleed, I bleed; when you hunger I hunger,” ; or when Jesus answered to his disciples, “Whensoever you did it to these, you did it to me.” Does the trinitarian Name of God have something profound to do with our own nature, and with what it means when we partake in the Eucharist, to be united in Christ and share in the lives of those we also love?
The Trinity is a hard matter to understand, and some of it is quite simply beyond our ability to comprehend, yet it remains one of the most central and powerful aspects of our faith. To begin in this Name is no trivial matter of ritual or formality, nor is it a minor part of our prayer, but is the essence of God that was revealed in Christ and it is the one thing that may tell us more about who God is, about who we are, our relationship to Him, His relationship with us and our relationship to one another than any other aspect of our Faith. It is in this way, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit that we began our Christian life, that we begin each prayer and with which we may greet each day.
Be attentive when you speak the name of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and meditate on this mystery during times of silence, and at various other times throughout the day. If it is appropriate and you are able, place an icon of the Holy Trinity in a prominent place in your home, near a family altar, or in a place for meditation; that you may be constantly reminded of this Holy Name and Presence.