Feast of the Most Holy Trinity
The very essence of the Christian Faith consists in the knowledge and adoration of One God in Three Persons. This is the Mystery whence all others flow. Our Faith centers in this as in the master-truth of all it knows in this life, and as the infinite object whose vision is to form our eternal happiness; and yet, we only know it, because it has pleased God to reveal Himself thus to our lowly intelligence, which, after all, can never fathom the infinite perfections of that God, who necessarily inhabiteth light inaccessible (1 Tim. vi. 16). Human reason may, of itself, come to the knowledge of the existence of God as Creator of all beings; it may, by its own innate power, form to itself an idea of His perfections by the study of His works; but the knowledge of God’s intimate being can only come to us by means of His own gracious revelation.
It was God’s good-pleasure to make known to us His essence, in order to bring us into closer union with Himself, and to prepare us, in some way, for that face-to-face vision of Himself which He intends giving us in eternity: but His revelation is gradual; He takes mankind from brightness unto brightness, fitting it for the full knowledge and adoration of Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. During the period preceding the Incarnation of the eternal Word, God seems intent on inculcating the idea of His Unity, for polytheism was the infectious error of mankind; and every notion of there being a spiritual and sole cause of all things would have been effaced on earth, had not the infinite goodness of that God watched over its preservation.
Not that the Old Testament Books were altogether silent on the Three Divine Persons, Whose ineffable relations are eternal; only, the mysterious passages, which spoke of them, were not understood by the people at large; whereas, in the Christian Church, a child of seven will answer them that ask him, that, in God, the three Divine Persons have but one and the same nature, but one and the same Divinity. “When the Book of Genesis tells us, that God spoke in the plural, and said: Let Us make man to our image and likeness (Gen. i. 26), the Jew bows down and believes, but he understands not the sacred text; the Christian, on the contrary, who has been enlightened by the complete revelation of God, sees, under this expression, the Three Persons acting together in the formation of Man; the light of Faith develops the great truth to him, and tells him that, within himself, there is a likeness to the blessed Three in One. Power, Understanding, and Will, are three faculties within him, and yet he himself is but one being.
In the Books of Proverbs, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus, Solomon speaks, in sublime language, of Him Who is eternal Wisdom; he tells us, and he uses every variety of grandest expression to tell us, of the divine essence of this Wisdom, and of His being a distinct Person in the Godhead; but, how few among the people of Israel could see through the veil? Isaias heard the voice of the Seraphim, as they stood around God’s throne; he heard them singing, in alternate choirs, and with a joy intense because eternal, this hymn: Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord (Is. vi. 3)! but who will explain to men this triple Sanctus, of which the echo is heard here below, when we mortals give praise to our Creator? So, again, in the Psalms, and the prophetic Books, a flash of light will break suddenly upon us; a brightness of some mysterious Three will dazzle us; but, it passes away, and obscurity returns seemingly all the more palpable; we have but the sentiment of the divine Unity deeply impressed on our inmost soul, and we adore the Incomprehensible, the Sovereign Being.
The world had to wait for the fullness of time to be completed; and then, God would send, into this world, His Only Son, Begotten of Him from all eternity. This His most merciful purpose has been carried out, and the Word made Flesh hath dwelt among us (St. John, i. 14). By seeing His glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son of the Father (Ibid), we have come to know that, in God, there is Father and Son. The Son’s Mission to our earth, by the very revelation it gave us of Himself, taught us that God is, eternally, Father, for whatsoever is in God is eternal. But for this merciful revelation, which is an anticipation of the light awaiting us in the next life, our knowledge of God would have been too imperfect. It was fitting that there should be some proportion between the light of Faith, and that of the Vision reserved for the future; it was not enough for man to know that God is One.
So that, we now know the Father, from Whom comes, as the Apostle tells us, all paternity, even on earth (Eph. iii. 15). We know Him not only as the creative power, which has produced every being outside Himself; but, guided as it is by Faith, our soul’s eye respectfully penetrates into the very essence of the Godhead, and there beholds the Father begetting a Son like unto Himself. But, in order to teach us the Mystery, that Son came down upon our earth. Himself has told us expressly, that no one knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him (St. Matth. xi. 27). Glory, then, be to the Son, Who has vouchsafed to show us the Father! and glory to the Father, Whom the Son hath revealed unto us!
The intimate knowledge of God, has come to us by the Son, Whom the Father, in His love, has given to us (St. John, iii. 16). And this Son of God, Who, in order to raise up our minds even to His own Divine Nature, has clad Himself, by His Incarnation, with our Human Nature, has taught us that He and His Father are one (St. John, xvii. 22); that they are one and the same Essence, in distinction of Persons. One begets, the Other is begotten; the One is named Power; the Other, Wisdom, or Intelligence. The Power cannot be without the Intelligence, nor the Intelligence without the Power, in the sovereignly perfect Being: but, both the One and the Other produce a Third term.
The Son, Who had been sent by the Father, had ascended into heaven, with the Human Nature which He had united to Himself for all future eternity; and, lo! the Father and the Son send into this world the Spirit Who proceeds from them both. It was a new Gift, and it taught man that the Lord God was in Three Persons. The Spirit, the eternal link of the first Two, is Will, He is Love, in the divine Essence. In God, then, is the fullness of Being, without beginning, without succession, without increase, for there is nothing which He has not. In these Three eternal terms of His uncreated Substance, is the Act, pure and infinite.
The sacred Liturgy, whose object is the glorification of God and the commemoration of His works, follows, each year, the sublime phases of these manifestations, whereby the Sovereign Lord has made known His whole self to mortals. Under the somber colors of Advent, we commemorated the period of expectation, during which the radiant Trinity sent forth but few of its rays to mankind. The world, during those four thousand years, was praying heaven for a Liberator, a Messiah; and it was God’s own Son that was to be this Liberator, this Messiah. That we might have the full knowledge of the prophecies which foretold Him, it was necessary that He himself should actually come: a Child was born unto us (Is. ix. 6), and then we had the key to the Scriptures. When we adored that Son, we adored also the Father, Who sent Him to us in the Flesh, and to whom He is consubstantial. This Word of Life, Whom we have seen, Whom we have heard, Whom our hands have handled (St. John, i. l) in the Humanity which He deigned to assume, has proved Himself to be truly a Person, a Person distinct from the Father, for One sends, and the Other is sent. In this second Divine Person, we have found our Mediator, Who has reunited the creation to its Creator; we have found the Redeemer of our sins, the Light of our souls, the Spouse we had so long desired.
Having passed through the mysteries which He Himself wrought, we next celebrated the descent of the Holy Spirit, Who had been announced as coming to perfect the work of the Son of God. We adored Him, and acknowledged Him to be distinct from the Father and the Son, Who had sent Him to us, with the mission of abiding with us (St. John, xiv. 16). He manifested Himself by divine operations which are especially His own, and were the object of His coming. He is the soul of the Church; He keeps her in the truth taught her by the Son. He is the source, the principle of the sanctification of our souls; and in them He wishes to make His dwelling. In a word the mystery of the Trinity has become to us, not only a dogma made known to our mind by Revelation, but, moreover, a practical truth given to us by the unheard of munificence of the Three Divine Persons; the Father, Who has adopted us; the Son Whose brethren and joint-heirs we are; and the Holy Ghost, Who governs us, and dwells within us.
Let us, then, begin this Day, by giving glory to the one God in Three Persons. For this end, we will unite with holy Church, who, in her Office of Prime, recites on this solemnity, as, also, on every Sunday not taken up by a feast, the magnificent Symbol, known as the Athanasian Creed. It gives us, in a summary of much majesty and precision, the doctrine of the holy Doctor, Saint Athanasius, regarding the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation (It is a psalm or hymn of praise, of confession, and of profound, self-prostrating homage, parallel to the Canticles of the elect in heaven. It appeals to the imagination quite as much as to the intellect. It is the war-song of faith, with which we warn first ourselves, then each other, and then all those who are within its hearing, and the hearing of the Truth, Who our God is, and how we must worship Him, and how vast our responsibility will be if we know what to believe, and yet believe not.)
O indivisible Unity! O Trinity distinct in one only Nature! Infinite God, Who hast revealed Thyself unto men! graciously bear with us, whilst we dare to make our adorations before Thee, and pour forth our heart’s thanksgiving, feeling ourselves overwhelmed by the brightness of thy majesty. O Unity divine! O divine Trinity! we have not, as yet, seen Thee; but we know that Thou art, for thou hast vouchsafed to reveal Thyself unto us. This earth, whereon we are living, has the mystery distinctly proclaimed to it, every day of its existence, that same august mystery, whose vision is the source of the happiness enjoyed by the Blessed, who are glorified, and are united with Thee in closest union. The human race had to wait long ages, before the divine formula was fully revealed; happy we, who live in its full possession, and can, and do, delightedly proclaim Unity and Trinity in Thine infinite Essence! There was a time, when an inspired writer spoke an allusion to this grandest of truths; but his words flashed across the minds of his hearers, as lightning traverses a cloud, and then leaves it darker than before. I have not learned Wisdom, said he, and have not known the science of saints. Who hath ascended up into heaven, and descended? Who hath held the wind (the storm) in His hands? Who hath bound up the waters together, as in a garment? Who hath raised up all the borders of the earth? What is His name? and what is the name of His Son, if thou knowest (Prov. xxx. 3, 4)?
Thanks to Thine unbounded mercy, O Lord God! we now know thy name. Thou art called the Father; and He Whom thou begettest from all eternity is named the Word and Wisdom. We know, too, that from the Father and the Son, proceeds the Spirit of love. The Son, clad in our flesh, has dwelt on this earth, and lived amongst men; then came down the Spirit, and he abides for ever with us, till the destinies of the human race are accomplished here below. Therefore is it, that we dare to confess the Unity and the Trinity; for we have heard the divine testimony, and have believed; and, having believed, we have spoken, with all certainty (Ps. sxv. 10; 2 Cor. iv. 13). Accept, then, this our confession, O Lord, as thou didst that of thy brave virgin and martyr, Cecilia, who, when the executioner had thrice struck her neck with the sword, and her noble blood flowed in streams from her wound, expressed her faith, as she breathed forth her soul, and confessed, by the position of her hands, the Unity of thy Nature and the Trinity of thy Persons.
The hymn of thy Seraphim has been heard here on earth: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of hosts (Is. vi. 3)! We are but mortals; we are not Prophets, as was Isaias; and yet we have a happiness which he had not; we can repeat the song of those blessed Spirits, with fullness of knowledge, and can say unto Thee , “Holy is the Father, Holy is the Son, Holy is the Spirit!” Those same Seraphim flew with two of their wings; with two, they hid their face; and with two, they covered their feet. So is it with us: strengthened, as we are, by the divine Spirit, Who has been given to us, we strive to lighten the heavy weight of our frail mortality, and raise it aloft on the wings of desire; we hide our sins by repentance; and veiling the weakness of our intellectual vision beneath the cloud of Faith, we receive the light which is infused into our souls. Docile to the revealed word, we submit to its teachings; and it imparts to us, not merely a distinct, but even an enlightened knowledge of that Mystery, which is the source and center of all others. The Angels and Saints in heaven contemplate it with that inexpressible reserve, which the Prophet describes by saying, that they hide their face with their wings. We poor mortals have not, and cannot have, the sight of the great truth; but we have the knowledge of it; and this knowledge enlightens our path, and keeps us firm in the truth. We have a dread of presuming to be searchers of thy majesty, lest we should be overwhelmed by glory (Prox. xxv. 27); but, humbly treasuring up what heaven has vouchsafed to reveal to us of its secrets, we dare thus to address thee:
Glory be to Thee, O divine Essence, that art but one! Thou art pure Act; thou art Being, necessary, infinite, undivided, independent, perfect from all eternity, peaceful, and sovereignly happy. In Thee we acknowledge, together with the inviolable Unity, which is the source of all thy perfections, Three Persons distinctly subsistent; but, in their production and distinction, the one same Nature is common to all; so that the personal subsistence which constitutes them, and distinguishes them one from the other, causes no inequality between them. O infinite blessedness in this life of the Three Persons! they contemplate in themselves the ineffable perfections of the Essence which unites them together, and the attribute of each of the Three, which divinely animates the Nature that nought can limit or disturb! O wonder of that infinite Essence, when It deigns to act outside Itself, by creating beings in its power and its goodness! the Three Persons work then together; so that the one which acts in a way which is His special attribute, does so in virtue of a will common to all. May a special love be given to that divine Person Who, in the act which is common to the Three, deigns to reveal Himself thus markedly to us creatures; and, at the same time, may thanks be given to the other Two, who unite, in one same will, with the Person Who vouchsafes to honour us with that special manifestation of Himself!
Glory be to Thee, O Father, thou Ancient of days (Dan. vii. 9)! Thou art unborn, without beginning, but communicating, essentially and necessarily, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, the godhead which dwells in Thee! Thou art God, and Thou art Father. He Who knows Thee as God, and knows thee not as Father, does not know thee as thou art. Thou producest, thou begettest, but it is within thine own bosom that thou generatest; for nought is God, which is outside thyself. Thou art being, Thou art power; but Thou hast never been without a Son. Thou speakest to Thyself all thou art thyself; thou explainest Thyself; and the fruit of the fecundity of Thy thought, which is equal to Thyself, is a second Person coming forth from Thee: it is Thy Son, Thy Word, Thine uncreated Word. Once didst thou utter this Word; and thy Word is eternal as thou thyself art, and as is thy thought, of which that Word is the infinite expression. Like the sun which is visible to our eyes, and which has never existed, but what its own brightness has existed with it; this brightness is by the sun, it is with the sun; it emanates from it without lessening it, and it never exists as something independent of its source. Bear, O Father, with this weakness of our understanding, which borrows from the beings Thou hast created an image whereto to compare Thee. And so, again, if we study ourselves, whom thou hast created to Thine own likeness, we find that a thought of our own, that it may be something distinct from our mind, has need of a term, a word, to fix and express it.
O Father! we have been brought to know thee by that Son Whom thou eternally begettest, and Who has vouchsafed to reveal Himself to us. He has taught us that thou art Father, and Himself Son; and that, nevertheless, thou art one with him (St. John, x. 30). When one of His Apostles said to him: Lord! show us the Father! He answered him: He that seeth me, seeth the Father (Ibid. xiv. 8, 9). O Unity of the divine Nature, whereby the Son, though distinct from the Father, is not less than the Father is! O delight of the Father in the Son, by Whom He has the knowledge of Himself! delight of intimate love, of which he spoke to His creature man, on the banks of Jordan, and on the top of Thabor (St. Matth. iii. 17; 2 St. Pet. i. 17)!
O Father! we adore Thee, but we also love Thee; for a Father should be loved by His children, and we are Thy children. It is an Apostle that teaches us that all paternity proceeds from Thee, not in heaven alone, but on earth too (Eph. iii. 15). No one is Father, no one has paternal authority, be it in a family, or in the State, or in the Church, but by Thee, and in Thee, and in imitation of Thee. Nay more; thou wouldst have us not only be called, but really and truly be thy Sons (1 St. John, iii 1), not, indeed, by generation, as is thine Only Begotten Son, but by an adoption, which makes us Joint-heirs with Him (Rom. viii. 17). This divine Son of Thine, speaking of thee, says: I honour my Father (St. John. viii. 49); we, also, honour Thee, O sovereign Father, Father of infinite majesty! and, until eternity dawn upon us, we glorify Thee now from the depths of our misery and exile, uniting our humble praise with that which is presented to Thee by the Angels, and by the Blessed ones, who are of the same human family as ourselves. May Thy fatherly eye protect us, may it graciously find pleasure in us Thy children, whom, as we hope, Thou hast foreseen, whom Thou hast chosen, whom Thou hast called to the faith, and who presume, with the Apostle, to call Thee the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation (2 Cor. i. 3).
Glory be to thee, O Son, O Word, O Wisdom, of the Father! Thou emanatest from His divine essence. He gave Thee birth before the day-star (Ps. cix. 3); and He said to Thee: This day have I begotten Thee (Ibid. ii. 7); and that Day, which has neither eve nor morrow, is eternity. Thou art Son, and Only Son; and this name expresses one same nature with Him Who begets Thee; it excludes creation, and shows Thee to be con-substantial with the Father, from Whom Thou comest forth, perfectly like Him in all things. And Thou comest forth from the Father, without coming out of the divine essence, being co-eternal with Thy source; for, in God, there is nothing new, nothing temporal. Thy Sonship is not a dependency; for the Father cannot be without the Son, any more than the Son can be without the Father. If it be a glory in the Father to produce the Son, it is no less a glory in the Son to be the exhaustive term to the generative power of the Father.
O Son of God! Thou art the Word of the Father. Uncreated Word! Thou art as intimately in Him, as is His thought; and His thought is His being. It is in Thee that this His being expresses itself, in its whole infiniteness; it is in Thee that He knows Himself. Thou art the spiritual fruit produced by the divine intellect of the Father; the expression of all that He is, whether He keep Thee mysteriously in His bosom (St. John, i. 18), or produce Thee outside Himself. What language can we make use of, in order to describe Thee, and Thy glories, O Son of God! The Holy Ghost has vouchsafed to come to our assistance, in the writings which He has inspired: and it is with the very expressions He has suggested, that we presume thus to address Thee: Thou art the brightness of the Father’s glory; Thou art the figure of His substance (Heb. i. 3), Thou art the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image that reflects His eternal goodness? We presume, likewise, to say to Thee, what we are taught by the holy Church assembled at Nicea: Thou art “God of God; Light of Light; true God of true God.” And we add, with the Fathers and Doctors: “Thou art the torch eternally lit by the eternal torch. Thy Light lessens nought of that which communicates Itself to Thee; neither is Thy Light inferior in aught to that from which it is produced.”
But when this ineffable fecundity which gives an eternal Son to the Father, and, to the Father and Son a third term, willed to manifest Itself outside the divine essence; and, not having again the power to produce what is equal to Itself, deigned to call forth from nothingness, intellectual and rational nature, as being the nearest approach to its author, and material nature, as being the least removed from nothingness then, O Only-Begotten Son of God! the intimate production of Thy Person in the Father’s bosom revealed itself by Creation. It is the Father Who made all things; but, it was in Wisdom, that is, in Thee, that he made all (Ps. ciii. 24). This mission of working, which Thou receivedst from the Father, is a consequence of the eternal generation, whereby He produces Thee from Himself. Thou camest forth from Thy mysterious rest; and creatures, visible and invisible came forth, at Thy bidding, out of nothing. Acting in closest union with the Father, Thou pouredst out upon the worlds thou createdst somewhat of that beauty and harmony, of which Thou art the image in the divine essence. And yet, Thy mission was not at an end when creation was completed. Angels and Men, who were intellectual and free beings, were destined for the eternal vision and possession of God. The merely natural order could not suffice for these two classes of thy creatures; a supernatural way had to be prepared for them, whereby they might be brought to their last end. Thou, O Only-Begotten Son of God! art this Way. By thyself assuming human nature, thou unitedst Thyself to Thine own work, Thou raisedst Angel and Man up to God, and, by Thy Human Nature, Thou showedst Thyself as the supreme type of the Creation, which the Father had effected by Thee. O unspeakable mystery! Thou art the uncreated Word, and, at the same time, thou art the First-born of every creature (Coloss. i. 15); not, indeed, to appear, until Thy time should come; and yet preceding, in the divine mind and intention, all created beings, all of which were to be created, in order that they might be Thy subjects.
The human race, though destined to possess Thee, in its midst, as its divine intermediator, rebelled against its God by sin, and, by sin, was plunged into the abyss of death. Who could raise it up again? who could restore it to the sublime destiny it had forfeited? Thou alone, O Only-Begotten Son of the Father! It was what we never could have hoped for; but this God so loved the world, as to give his Only-Begotten Son (St. John, iii. 16), to be not only the Mediator, but the Redeemer, too, of us all. Thou, our First-born, askedst Thy Father to restore Thine inheritance unto Thee (Ps. xv. 5); Thou hadst to purchase back this inheritance. Then did the Father intrust Thee with the mission of Saviour to our lost race. Thy Blood, shed upon the Cross, was our ransom; and, by it, we were born again to God, and restored to our lost privileges. Therefore, O Son of God! we, Thy redeemed, glory in calling thee Our Lord. Having thus delivered us from death, and cleansed us from sin, Thou vouchsafedst to restore us to all the grand things we had lost; for, henceforth, Thou art our head, and we are Thy members; Thou art King, and we Thy happy subjects; Thou art Shepherd, and we the sheep of thy one fold; thou art Spouse, and the Church, our Mother, is Thy Bride; Thou art the living Bread come down from heaven, and we are Thy guests. O Son of God! O Emmanuel! O Son of Man! blessed be the Father that sent Thee; but blessed, also, be Thou, Who didst fulfill the mission He gave Thee, and Who hast been pleased to say, that Thy delights are to be with the children of men (Prov. viii. 31)!
Glory be to thee, O Holy Spirit, Who eternally emanatest from the Father and the Son in the unity of the divine substance! The eternal Act, whereby the Father knows Himself, produces the Son, Who is the infinite image of the Father; the Father is full of love for this brightness which eternally proceeds from Himself; and the Son, contemplating the source whence He forever comes, conceives for this source a love as great as that wherewith Himself is loved. What language could describe this mutual ardour and aspiration, which is the attraction and tendency of one Person to Another in the eternally immovable Essence! Thou art this Love, O divine Spirit, that proceedest from the Father and the Son as from one same principle; Thou art distinct from both, and yet art the bond that unites them in the ineffable delights of the Godhead; thou art living Love, personal Love, proceeding from the Father by the Son, the final term which completes the divine Nature, and eternally perfects the Trinity. In the inaccessible bosom of the great God, Thy Personality comes to Thee both from the Father, of Whom Thou art the expression by a second production (St. John, xv. 26), and from the Son, Who, receiving of the Father, gives Thee of His own (Ibid. xvi. 14, 15); for the infinite Love which unites Them is of both Persons, and not of one alone. The Father was never without the Son, and the Son never without the Father; so likewise, the Father and the Son have never been without Thee, O Holy Spirit! Eternally have they loved; and thou art the infinite Love which exists between them, and to which They communicate Their Godhead. Thy Procession from both exhausts the productive power of the uncreated Essence; and thus are the divine Persons Three in number; all that is outside them, is created being.
In the divine Essence, there is not only Power and Intelligence, but, also, and necessarily, there is Will, from which action follows. Will and Love are one and the same thing; and Thou, O divine Spirit, art this Will, this Love. When the glorious Trinity works outside Itself, the act conceived by the Father, and expressed by the Son, is accomplished by Thee. By Thee, likewise, the Love, which the Father and Son have for each other, and which is personised in Thee, is extended to beings which are to be created. It is by his Word that the Father knows them; it is by Thee, O divine Love, 0 Holy Spirit, that He loves them; and thus, all creation proceeds from the divine goodness.
Emanating, as Thou dost, from the Father and the Son, thou art sent, by both, to us creatures; and yet so as not to lose thereby the equality thou hast, from all eternity, with Them. The Son, when sent by the Father, clad himself, once forever, with our human nature; and his Person, by the works which are peculiarly His own, is shown to us as distinct from that of the Father. So, likewise, O Holy Spirit! we recognize Thee as distinct from the Father and the Son, by Thy coming down to fulfill in our regard, the Mission given to Thee by both. It was Thou that inspiredst the Prophets (2 St. Peter, i. 21); Thou that overshadowedst Mary in the divine Incarnation (St. Luke, i. 35); Thou that restedst on the flower of Jesse (Is. xi. 2); Thou that leadedst Jesus into the desert (St. Luke, iv. 1); Thou that didst glorify Him by miracles (St. Matth. xii. 28). The Church, His bride, receives thee, and thou teachest her all truth (St. Joh, xvi. 13), and thou abidest in her, as her devoted friend, even to the very end of time (St. Joh, xiv. 16). Our souls are signed with Thy seal (Eph. i. 13; iv. 30), and Thou quickenest them with supernatural life (Gal. v. 25); Thou dwellest even in our bodies, making them Thy temple (1. Cor. vi. 19); in a word, Thou art to us the Gift of God (Hymn, Veni Creator), and the fountain springing up even into life everlasting (St. Joh, iv. 14; vii. 38, 39). May special thanks be given to Thee, O Holy Spirit, for the special works Thou accomplishest in our favour!
And now, having adored each of the divine Persons, and blessed each for the favours He has bestowed upon this world, we again dare to fix our unworthy gaze upon that Trinity of Majesty which exists in the Unity of the divine Essence. O Sovereign Lord! we again confess what Thou hast taught us; but we confess it in the words of Thy servant Augustine: “They are not more than Three: One that loveth Him Who is from Him; and One that loveth Him from Whom He is; and One Who is that very Love (Non amplius quan tria sunt: unus diligens eum qui de illo est et unus diligens eum de quo est, et ipsa dilectio. S. Augutinus, De Trinitate, liv. vi. cap. 7).”
But we have still a debt of gratitude to pay for that unspeakable favour of Thine, whereby, O blessed Trinity, Thou hast vouchsafed to mark us with the image of Thyself. Having resolved, from all eternity, to admit us into fellowship with thyself (1. St. John, i. 3), Thou hast prepared us for it, according to a type taken from Thine own divine Nature (Gen. i. 27). There are three powers in our one soul; this tells us that it was Thou gavest us our existence; and yet this likeness to Thyself, which is the glory of our natural being, was but a preparation for further purposes of Thy generous love towards us. After having bestowed upon us this natural being, it pleased Thee to decree, O sacred Trinity, that a supernatural one should also be imparted to us. When the fullness of time had come, the Father sends us his Son; and this uncreated Word brings light to our understanding: the Father and the Son send us the Spirit; and the Spirit brings love to our will: and the Father, Who cannot be sent, comes of Himself, and gives himself to our soul, giving her a power beyond her own strength.
It is in holy Baptism, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that is produced, in the Christian, this work of the Three divine Persons, which is so admirably in keeping with the faculties of our soul; and these faculties are but an outline of the masterpiece, which the supernatural action of God can alone complete.
Blessed union! whereby God is in man, and man is in God! Union that brings us to adoption by the Father, to brotherhood with the Son, to our eternal inheritance! But, how has this indwelling of God in His creature been formed? Gratuitously, by God’s eternal love. And, how long will it last? For ever, unless man himself refuse to give love for love. Mortal sin admitted into the soul, the divine indwelling is at an end: the very moment that sanctifying grace is lost, the Three divine Persons Who had taken up their abode in that soul (St. John, xiv. 23), and were united with her, abandon her; God would be no longer in her, save by His immensity, but the soul would not possess Him as she did before. Then would Satan set up again his wretched kingdom within her, the kingdom of his vile trinity, Concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life (2 St. John, ii. 16)? Wo to the man, Who would dare to defy his God by such rebellion, and put evil in the place of infinite good! Hell and eternal torments are the consequences of the creature’s contempt of his Creator. God is a jealous God; if we drive Him from the dwelling of our souls, the deep abyss must be our everlasting abode.
But is this rupture beyond the hope of reconciliation? Yes, as far as sinful man’s power is concerned; for he can never, of himself, recover his position with the blessed Trinity, which God’s gratuitous bounty had prepared, and His incomprehensible goodness achieved. But, as the Church teaches us, in her Liturgy (Collect for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost), God never shows his power more, than when He has pity on a sinner and pardons him; it is this powerful mercy of God which can work the prodigy of a reconciliation; and He really does work it, as often as a sinner is converted. When the august Trinity deigns to return into the soul of repentant man, the Angels and Saints in heaven are filled with joy, as the Gospel assures us (St. Luke, xv. 10); for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have testified Their love, and sought Their glory, by making him just, who had been a sinner; by coming again to dwell in this lost sheep; in this prodigal, who had, but a few days before, been tending swine; in this thief who, but just now, had been insulting on the Cross, together with his fellow culprit, the innocent Crucified.
Adoration, then, and love, be to Thee, O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, O perfect Trinity, that hast vouchsafed to reveal Thyself to mankind; O eternal and infinite Unity, that hast delivered our forefathers from the yoke of their false gods! Glory be to Thee, as it was in the beginning, before any creature existed; as it is now, at this very time, whilst we are living in the hope of that true life, which consists in seeing thee face-to-face; and as it shall for ever be, in those everlasting ages, when a blissful eternity shall have united us in the bosom of Thine infinite Majesty. Amen.