The Holy Trinity Mission
Day One: The Holy Spirit
Last weekend in our homilies, Fr. Chris and I spoke about the Holy Trinity. This was the precursor to this parish mission in which we will be embarking on a journey to the heart of the Holy Trinity.
During these three nights my reflections come from several sources. The primary source is a book that has been revolutionary to me in my personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. This is a book entitled, “The One Thing is Three: How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything.” The author, Fr. Michael Gaitley, has created an entire parish renewal process which he calls “Hearts Afire.” This renewal takes three stages, each of which I will be addressing over these three nights.
Gaitley refers to Stage One as “The Two Hearts.” In this he takes us through a personal renewal process in which we journey to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Stage Two Gaitley entitles “Wisdom and Work of Mercy” in which we will be provided opportunity to enter into a group-study program based on his book, “The One Thing is Three.”
Stage Three, entitled “Keeping the Heart Afire,” is a wide range of group parish renewal opportunities, some of which we are already doing like, Christ Renews His Parish, MACH I, Eucharistic Adoration and a Life in the Spirit Prayer Group.
Over these three nights we are going to reflect theologically and spiritually on this great mystery of One God, who exists as a trinity of person. We will do so through music, prayer, dance and sacred artwork. Tonight, as our opening prayer ritual revealed to us we are reflecting on God the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow night we will focus our reflections on God the Son. Tuesday evening we will reflect on God the Father.
Now at first one might say, “Isn’t this backwards? Shouldn’t it be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” I am presenting this mission in this order because this is the order with which we come to know God. We cannot know God unless God chooses to reveal himself to us. That explains why not everyone in the world is Christian. God has simply not chosen all people to know Him as the Triune God.
God does this through the movement of the Holy Spirit. For most of us that first encounter with the Spirit happened on the day of our Baptism. Through water and the Holy Spirit we were baptized. This Holy Spirit opens our hearts and our minds so that we can know the Son. This is one of the best arguments I can see as to why be baptize infants. Through our action of presenting our children for Baptism we are saying to God that we want Him to reveal himself to our children. We are also accepting the responsibility of raising our children in the faith so that they can come to know and love the Father. It is a beautiful thought, that before our children can formulate a thought about God, that God has already chosen them, through us.
Once having received the Holy Spirit, our hearts and minds are opened so that we can come to know the Son. This is why historically, for 1900 years, Baptism and Confirmation were always celebrated before receiving First Eucharist. After one comes to know the Son, only then can we fully come to know the Father. In the words of our Lord, “No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). And so it is by the pour of the Holy Spirit, and through the Son, that we come to know the depth and breadth of the Father’s love.
With this prelude, let us now look more deeply at the mystery of the Holy Spirit.
“Veni, Sancte Spiritus”
In the name + of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
How often do we perform this simple gesture while never really thinking of how profound a gesture it is? How often do we speak these words without realizing that we are calling upon God?
These are the words through which we were baptized. This is the sign by which we have been redeemed. And this name makes all the difference in the world for when we speak these words we are calling upon the name of God.
But, who is this God . . . this Divine Spirit . . . who chose to create us in His own image and likeness? This is the question that is as old as humanity itself. This is the question that has eluded theologians for the entire history of our Church. Perhaps we can learn a little from St. Thomas Aquinas. Who, after completing his great treatises on the Divine Nature of God found everything that he had written as “nothing more than straw.” He said this because, one day in prayer, he had a mystical experience of God. After this experience nothing was ever the same for him. This is because he had encountered the very real presence of God. The God, who had loved Thomas into being, brought Thomas more deeply into the Divine relationship.
To delve deeper into this mystery we need to start at our beginning.
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss while a mighty wind swept over the waters” (Genesis 1:1).
In the beginning the Spirit of God hovered over the dark void of nothingness
And God said, “Let there be. . .”
and from that time onward, the Spirit of God hovered over all of creation.
But before there was a beginning, God was. God is not a being. God is being itself. And God is the one who gives being to everything. The ancient story of creation speaks to us the truth of God who, as our creed states, “. . . brought all things into being.”
The story of creation reveals to us this fundamental truth. God gave form to the earth, which was a formless wasteland. As our Christian faith teaches God has existed for all eternity as a Trinity of persons. This is something that was unknown to the ancient peoples. It is only when the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, became human that the truth of the Trinity was revealed to us. But because of this Christian doctrine we can now read this belief back into the ancient scriptures. For Christians this is a valid reading of the books of the Old Testament for Christ came as the fulfillment of this ancient story and so the books of the Old Covenant are now a part of the story of the New Covenant.
Saying this it is accurate to say that it was God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who brought all things into being. Genesis 1:26 give us the first hint at the reality of God existing as a Divine relationship of persons.
“Then God said: ‘Let US make man in our image, after our likeness‘” (Gen 1:26)
God speaks of self in the plural. The Holy Trinity, acting together, created the universe in all its wonder. At the end of each day of creation God then said, “It is good,” reminding us that everything God makes is inherently good.
Then God did the most wondrous thing of all. God created us.
“God created man in his image;
in the divine image he created him;
male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
As the story of creation continues we read that God created the man and the woman out of the dust. God molded and fashioned them from the clay, and then God breathed the Spirit into them. God then lived with us and walked among us in the Garden of Eden.
This speaks to us of our two natures, body and soul. God created the spiritual universe, the choirs of angels. But angels are pure spirits. They have no material form. God created also the material world: the sun, moon and stars; the oceans and rivers, mountains and hills; the plants and animals. These creatures have no spiritual form. In the human race God united matter and spirit. Formed from the clay (matter) God breathed life (spirit or soul) into us. We are the one and only creation of God that is created in God’s image. In God’s image we were created to love; we were created with free will; we were created to live our lives in loving service.
And so to appreciate who this God of three persons really is we can use human images. (LIKE WHAT? Loving relationship of a mother and daughter, father and son, spousal (harlot), agape, eros, philios; scriptures are filled with such images)
Michael Gaitley, in his book The One Thing is Three, gives the image of the Trinity as a sort of dance. This divine dance has gone on for all eternity. This has been a dance of love. Think, therefore, of two lovers dancing. In the rhythm and movement of the dance the two become one, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. Occasionally the one partner swings the other outwards. As they hold hands at arms length they do not lose eye contact but keep their loving gaze. But the movement is not complete until the two are back in each other’s loving embrace.
When God created the human race it was as though God swung the Holy Spirit outward and created us. Holding us at arms length God kept his loving gaze upon us. At first, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we did likewise, gazing upon God with love.
But then something tragic happened. We looked away from God, and we let go of God’s hand. And we stopped dancing with God. (EXPLAIN TEMPTATION)
The man and woman sinned,
. . . and we sin . . .
separating ourselves from the loving embrace of God.
But the divine dance continued.
God had a plan to bring us back into the dance. When the time was right God would bring humanity back to Himself. Through the centuries, while it seemed like we were all alone, God did not abandon us. The Spirit of God was present when Noah built the ark to stave off the great flood. The Spirit of God moved upon the waters to part the Red Sea as Moses led the people out of Egypt. The Spirit of God was upon Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Anne and Joachim, as they gave birth to their children. The Spirit of God guided and spoke to the prophets as they preached to the people of Israel.
When the time was right God did something that brought us back into the dance. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, swung his Son outward and the Son became one with the human race, and was given the name “Yeshua,” “Jesus,” which means “God saves“. God held his Son’s hand, at arms length and gazed upon him with love, and through him gazed upon us with love. God did this so that God could “love in us, what (he) loves in his Son” (Preface VII for Sundays in Ordinary Time).
To accomplish this the Holy Spirit chose a young woman, who had been created without the stain of sin, to be the perfect vessel for the perfect son to come into the world. The Holy Spirit guided this woman to the point of trust where she could say, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
The Spirit of God came upon Mary as Jesus, the Son of God, took on our human fleshly existence. In fact you might even say that the Spirit took Mary as His spouse for it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that the Son was conceived in her womb. Just as the two become one flesh through the bonds of Holy Matrimony, the two natures of Jesus, His divinity as God, and His humanity through Mary, became one. From that moment onward the Son became one of us, to take away our sin.
Our Mother Mary
I would like to take us temporarily on a reflection on the role of Mary in salvation history. Mary was created, as our faith teaches, immaculately — that is, without sin. This was so that the perfect Son would be born through the perfect woman. This was God’s plan to correct what had happened through the Fall. Just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, through one man (Christ) redemption was won for all (Cf. Romans 5:12-21). But let us not forget the man was not alone. He and the woman sinned. For this reason God saved the world through a man (Christ) born of a woman (Mary). Mary is often referred to as the Second Eve.
And so our Mother Mary was created with an Immaculate Heart — a heart (soul) free from the stain of Original Sin. This is why the next step on our journey to the Trinity will be to reflect on the role of Mary in salvation history and to emulate her immaculate heart.
This year, as a Christmas gift from the parish, each of you will be receiving a copy of Fr. Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory. In this, through the spiritual writings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Theresa of Kalkota, and Blessed John Paul, each of you will be invited to enter into a 33 Day Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One thing each of these saints has in common is that they each consecrated their lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pope John Paul consecrated his entire pontificate to our Holy Mother. His motto was “totus tuus” which means “totally yours.”
It is important to note also that today, October 13th, our Holy Father Pope Francis held a special ceremony in Rome in which he once again consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I had no idea of this happening today when we calendared this parish mission. These were simply the days that seemed to work for our parish.
Each day you will have about 5-7 minutes of reading which will give you a single thought or reflection to meditate on throughout the day. The 33 days culminate on March 25th, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, our parishes secondary Feast Day. The Solemnity of the Incarnation, Christmas, is our primary Feast Day. This means that the Annunciation, the moment when Christ was conceived in His mother’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, the moment when the Word became flesh, is our parish’s secondary Feast.
This journey to the Trinity begins through Mary to Jesus. There is no greater evangelist in all of history than our Mother Mary. She has been single-handedly responsible for the conversion of more souls than any other Christian. I have an image of Mary which explains why she is so successful at bringing people to Jesus. It is because she is a Jewish mother. And what does every Jewish mother want for her son? The perfect wife. “Let me introduce you to my son.” As the Church, we are the bride of Christ, and so Mary is the perfect one to bring us to the Church.
Now let’s get back to the Holy Spirit.
Throughout His earthly life Jesus, the Son of God, was guided by the Spirit:
as he was tempted in the desert,
as he performed his many miracles,
as he preached his life giving words.
The Spirit of God was with Jesus:
as he was betrayed and rejected by his friends,
as he died upon the cross out of love for us,
. . . because we sin.
In the final movement of the dance of salvation God swung his Son outward to us and held his hand tightly as Jesus was nailed to the cross.
It is important to note that throughout His entire life, and especially in the time of His passion, Jesus never stopped looking at the Father. It was only when the enormity of the weight of our sins became so great that the Son could not see the Father that He cried out, “Eloi, eloi, lama, sabachtani,” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). In this moment the Son realized what our sin does to us. The Son realized how our sin separates us from God, and so for us he spoke these words. But the Father never let go of his Son’s hand. For no sooner did Jesus speak these words He then said, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit” (Luke 23:46). And He breathed His last.
The SON speaks the words “FATHER, into your hands I commend my SPIRIT.” In this sentence we have another example of how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were acting as one in this final act of salvation.
But the dance was not yet finished.
The Holy Spirit was with Jesus in his most earth-shattering event of all, as he rose from the dead. God then swung his Son back into His loving embrace as Jesus ascended to heaven, leaving this earth for a while.
But the dance was not yet finished.
The Son returned to the Father nearly 2000 years ago and so God sent us the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost Sunday.
That Spirit now lives with us and dances among us.
Until Christ comes again we are his body here on earth. And so through the Holy Spirit God holds our hand and brings us into the Divine dance.
That same Spirit comes to each of us in our Baptism and Confirmation. The Holy Spirit hovers over the ordinary gifts of bread and wine as our prayers transform them into the body and blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit hovers over the ordinariness of our lives and transforms our lives so that we can be Christ’s body here on earth.
The Spirit is with us in our work and our play.
The Spirit is with us in our homes, our families, and our friends.
The Spirit is with us every day of our life; guiding us . . . strengthening us . . . blessing us with God’s presence.
The Holy Spirit is with us
when we weep and mourn,
when we laugh and play.
The Holy Spirit is here to transform the ordinariness of our daily existence into something quite extraordinary as we live our call to follow the way of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us and works through us as we do God’s work on this earth. Because of this all things in heaven and all things on earth are sacred. And so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always been with us, and will always be with us here on earth until the end of time, and then we will be one with God for all eternity.
Until that time we have work to do . . .
Let us call on the Spirit to transform our broken world into God’s kingdom. Let us call on the Spirit to transform the ordinary into the sacred. Let us call on the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and make us holy. Let our hearts and voices sing out our prayer this day, and all days:
“Veni, Sancte Spiritus – Come, Holy Spirit”