Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Mystics, Misfits and Mistakes

Father John J. Lombardi

On the Most Holy Trinity…Mystics are ones who "close eyes" (from the Greek word, mystein) to delve deep within to experience spiritual, invisible realties. Misfits are flying monks (see below) not accepted by ordinary life; and mistakes, are, well,read on…

This Sunday is one of the most important feasts of the year and perhaps you don't even know it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the "hierarchy of the truths of faith" (#234).

Following are some thoughts on the Trinity…

Pray: "Most Holy Trinity: Uncreated Divinity Lead me into your Unity." That's it-- Repeat. Impress within-Love Him!

Mass: The Preface of Holy Trinity Sunday follows (Meditate upon it. To meditate means: within: think about/love Him) "We joyfully proclaim our faith in the mystery of Your Godhead, and that of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit: Three Persons in equal in majesty, undivided in splendor , One Lord, One God, ever to be adored in your everlasting Glory…Now with angels and saints, we praise You and sing, 'Holy, Holy, Holy Lord'…" The Godhead is the Unity of the Three Persons, the Divine Essence they All have in common. Seek and embrace that majesty, glory and splendor! …

MisfitMystic: St Joseph Cupertino, the "simpleton saint" once described the Holy Trinity as a blanket-threefold. That's it-the deepest-and-yet highest-Mystery of the Universe in two words. This guy was despised by many for his physical clumsiness and backwoodish ways, his intellectual ignorance, and yet he could grasp the essence of the Trinity: as blanketing-Love. Now: Think of yourself as a letter-place yourself in a "divine envelope".The Father is the like the Envelope, the Son is like the Flap and the Holy Spirit the Seal. Don't forget-get in "there"(by prayer,insight, love)and be sealed within Him. Be loved, immersed, protected. Jesus Christ speaks about this in Jn. 17:21-read and seek.

Martin Bolger, one of our Grotto workers, recently said, essentially: You understand your job, sports, cars, everyday life, housekeeping, stock market, but what about the most important Reality and Persons in your life-The Trinity? Are you really striving for a greater, more intimate understanding of God-as "he is in Himself"? Or are you lukewarm, more interested in created realties than the Creator of all? (See I Cor 15:28 on God and creation).

Indwelling:I was recently at Marty's birthday party and after a physical basketball game with his in-shape dad and brothers, we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner, but I didn't know the conversation would be so metaphysical. I was talking to Marjorie, Marty's aunt, and she allured me by her words of union and love-about God! Ironically, as a priest, I have hardly ever heard anyone-priest or layperson-speak like her. She articulated beautifully and profoundly the reality of the Blessed Trinity (three Divine Persons)-and the Union of the Persons within the Godhead. She said she was inspired by the recent Mass readings, St John's Gospel,ch's 15-17, and how entrancing they were, and how, over the years of hearing them every time this year, she grew to know-and love- God-as-Trinity. She said she was surprised she did not hear more about this from others-God'sThree-ness and the call to Union with-in this Trinitarian Love. Indeed, in my opinion, this is the highest calling, reality and topic for anyone, anytime: Union with God and participation in that Union which is called by Latin and Greek words, perchoresis/circumincession, interpenetration and indwelling of the three Divine Persons. This is what Marjorie was talking about, even though, to my knowledge she did not have a theology degree-she knew this by Sacred Revelation (the Bible at Mass) and by Grace. All of us are called to participate in that Union of the Trinitarian Persons-and there is nothing more divine we can hope for. (cf esp. Jn 17:21; II Pt 1:4). How little we hear and speak about this. Yes, the atoning death of Jesus is centrally important, and so is the Holy Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins thru Confession and the supernatural destiny (heaven or Hell) of the soul, but we cannot forget our Divine Destiny. That is, hopefully not just Heaven but Life in God, in the Trinity's undulating, intoxicating and enduring divinizing Love. So: in your prayer and meditation think about, seek and bury yourself in that Trinitarian Unity and enveloping love-participate in His Divine Ecstasy of interpenetrating Bliss…

Inner Trinity: St Augustine wrote a famous theological treatise De Trintiate and compared God-the-Trinity to our individual mind, will and memory. The memory is like God the Father, the "ground" and "generator" of all; the Son is like unto our intellect and thoughts, which "arise" from the mind-memory-ground. The memory and individual thoughts, but still distinct; The will is like the Holy Spirit. The word Spirit comes from spirare, "to breathe." The Will of God breathes out the Holy Spirit-as like a person wills something he aspires to. Got that? Now: how can you meditate upon the Trinity by going within yourself, thinking of these seemingly separate "faculties of the soul' -memory, thought-will-and, while sensing the uniqueness and the diversity, experience the unity?

Mistakes: Regarding the Trinity, since It is such a Mystery, mistakes will/have been made. Modalism is a heresy which sees each of the persons, not as Divine, Individual Persons, but as a mode, or operation of God. Therefore, errantly, they say there are not Three Persons in one Godhead, but only one Person manifesting three ways. Thus the plurality of persons is denied. So:Pray to each Divine Person and ask for help and enlightenment, . They are certainly distinct but also untied--the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier-All are together-One. Meanwhile polytheism denies the unity of the Three Persons and emphasizes a plurality of gods. This is more common in the East but, in the West, it became a heresy under the form of tri-theism, which separated the three Persons too much without their one-ness. Monism (another eastern error, but also now present in new age spiritualities)sees God as equal to creation, in (and limited by) the world(pan-theism=all is God). Therefore God is not transcendent or totally other (totaliter aliter- are the Latin words!) No, Catholicism strikes the middle path between dualism (God exclusively above, separated from below) and immanentism (God is only in things). No, God is both above it all (literally) and, also, within sanctified souls,and present to creation, but not limited or dependent upon such. So: how can you pray to God above and within? A maxim to remember-Any similarity we posit between God and creation, must always be by balanced by a greater dis-similarity between them. In other words: God is God and you are not!

Urge to Merge: All humans have cravings to unite to persons, places or things, but what about thirsting for God-the-Trinity, Ultimate Reality? St Gregory of Nazianzen writes inspiredly (use this, too, as a meditation): " I have not even begun to think of the unity when the Trinity bathes me in its splendor. I have not even begun to think of the Trinity when unity grasp me." Notice the balance between Trinity (Three-ness) and unity (One-ness). Both are entrancing and enveloping-now realize this in your prayer and contemplation.

Does the TrinityReally Make a Difference? As one of the most famous twentieth century theologians, that's the question Fr Karl Rahner, SJ, once asked. Ask it to yourself and then make-no, live!-a reply. We could, for starters, say-The Trinity is Holy mystery (as Fr. Rahner described God). Because God is Three Persons in one Divine Essence, we can never explain or totally understand this "divine paradox", so, therefore, we may say He, is a Holy Mystery. And mysteries are alluring, endlessly fascinating and seducing; God is just that. Though mysteries are sometimes beguiling, let us think: we will never get bored or sterile in enjoying the infinite allurement of His three-in-One-ness.…One-in-Three: the multiplicity of Divine Persons immerses souls (see Flying Monk above). A solo God, like a point or apex of a triangle does not enfold-but a Trinity of Persons , like a "divine circle" or "Trinitarian triangle" enmeshes all seekers--enfolds. So bury yourself in Him, in His Unity and Deep Divinity…Unity-amidst-Diversity: Multiculturalism is in, unity is kinda' out these days. Okay: as Catholics and Trinitarians, let's appreciate the Unity of God precisely amidst His diversity. These two divine attributes-unity/trinity-- go inextricably together! As an earthly couple unite they form a union and make a child. So the Three Persons are, in essence, united. The family must be preserved, because unity-not diversity of split -up families-is all important. The Three Divine Persons are not about "their own thing"-but are All Equally active in One Divine Plan. This shows us we Catholics, Americans, humans, should unite-amidst-diversity. God-the-Trinity is the Ultimate paradigm for us-so we must mediate upon God and actualize, in however clumsy ways, His Unity in our world.

Trinity in the Mass-In Mass it is Jesus Christ, High Priest praying (in and thru the priest), to the Heavenly Father-offering up the atoning Sacrifice, thru the Holy Spirit. Did you know this? Be more attentive and inspired and worship the Three-In-One in this highest form of prayer.

Mediation: Reflect upon the Athanasian Creed. This creed is attributed to Athanasius, the fourth century bishop of Alexandria who was the strongest defender of the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ…

"We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For the person of the Father is one; of the Son, another; of the Holy Spirit, another. But the divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, the glory equal, the majesty equal. Such as is the Father, such also is the Son, and such the Holy Spirit.

The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, and the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal Beings, but one eternal Being. So also there are not three uncreated Beings, nor three infinite Beings, but one uncreated and one infinite Being.

In like manner, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. And yet there are not three omnipotent Beings, but one omnipotent Being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God only. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord only.

For as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each person distinctively to be both God and Lord, we are prohibited by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords. The Father is made by none, nor created, nor begotten. The Son is from the Father alone, not made, not created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is not created by the Father and the Son, nor begotten, but proceeds. Therefore, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And in this Trinity there is nothing prior or posterior, nothing greater or less, but all three persons are coeternal and coequal to themselves. So that through all, as was said above, both unity in trinity and trinity in unity is to be adored. Whoever would be saved, let him thus think concerning the Trinity.

How To Repsond…Pray the Glory Be…to the Father, the Son and holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end: Amen!" Pray constantly. Read the Catechism-especially paragraphs # 234-267-excellent, holistic treatment of the ultimate Reality. Start now-it's an eternal investment! Study: read a book on the Trinity-I just read the excellent little book--"Understanding the Trinity" (Sophia press: by J.P Arendzen). Get it-get one and go deeper!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi