On Trinity Sunday, one cannot help but think of a common greeting heard at Mass, “Let us begin as we wish to begin all things. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” How many times have we made the Sign of the Cross? Why do we begin Mass (indeed, every prayer) with the Trinity? Perhaps Trinity Sunday is the perfect day to ask, what does it all mean?
During a General Audience, Pope Francis remarked, “The Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross. The whole prayer moves, so to speak, within the space of the Most Holy Trinity…” Perhaps we should look at the actions of the Trinity to see what God has done for us and thus see the true power of those words.
A favorite hymn sung on Trinity Sunday begins, “O God Almighty Father, Creator of all things, The Heavens stand in wonder, While earth Thy glory sings.” Everything, from the smallest pebble to the tallest mountain and every living creature in between, is the result of God’s generative power. As the Catechism points out, “the totality of what exists depends on the One who gives it being” (CCC 290). And so, when we begin “In the name of the Father,” we remind ourselves of the awesome power God has to create everything from nothing.
The second verse of the hymn goes, “O Jesus, Word Incarnate, Redeemer most adored, All Glory, praise and honor, Be Thine, our Sovereign Lord.” St. Paul reminds us, “In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7). By his death and resurrection, Christ opened the doors of heaven for the faithful.
The third verse says, “O God, the Holy Spirit, Who lives within our souls, Send forth thy light and lead us to our eternal goal.” The Catechism states, “By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally…” (CCC 683). It is by the Holy Spirit that the knowledge of our faith is revealed to us. And it is through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we are able to live out our faith in the hope of reaching heaven.
One thing that should be noted when talking about the Persons of the Trinity, is that while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be three distinct Persons, they are still of one nature. This is what we mean in the Nicene Creed when we say that Christ is “consubstantial with the Father”—they are distinct but are of the same substance. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each wholly and entirely God. Many times, when we talk about the Trinity, we appropriate certain actions to each Person, i.e. God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. This is fine, so long as we remember that the Father alone did not create, nor did the Son himself redeem. All actions are done in concert as one Triune God.
On this Trinity Sunday, when we make the Sign of the Cross, let us do so remembering what that action reveals – that God created all things, that through Him the gates of heaven are opened to us, and that with Him our faith is revealed. And let us always sing the chorus of that hymn we used above: “O most Holy Trinity, Undivided Unity; Holy God, Mighty God, God Immortal, be adored.”
Questions for Reflection: Is there a Person of the Trinity that you go to most frequently in prayer? How can you continue to build your relationship with each Person of the Trinity?
Victor David is a collaborator with the Catholic Apostolate Center and a staff member at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.