We celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity on Sunday June 16th. That will be a ‘Family Eucharist’ although the School is not due to be present. Even so, I will not be able to go too deeply into the glorious mystery of the Holy Trinity, so here is a little bit more about The Consubstantial, Co-eternal Three Persons, yet One God.
As spelt out in the Church of England Book of common prayer in the so-called Athanasian creed, the Father is God, the Son Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods but one God. This is a beautiful and rich mystery which we could contemplate for ever.
Almost all Christians would say that Jesus lives in their hearts. But do they realise that the Holy Trinity lives in their hearts? It is easier to contemplate Jesus because he is God incarnated as a man. It is not so easy to perceive the Trinity! But we miss so much beauty, mystery, majesty and spiritual blessings if we fail to internalise and experience that glorious spiritual, theological mystery.
In John 14:23 Jesus says “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. And a few verses earlier, speaking of the Holy Spirit he says “He will give you another comforter that he may abide with you for ever… He dwells with you and shall be in you”.
This divine indwelling which comes to us by the grace of Jesus justification, provides a deeply rich communion of persons both in our prayer life and in the powerful grace which empowers our lives.
Another way of looking at the Holy and Blessed Trinity, although I tremble to offer metaphor or ‘examples’ as to how we might think about it, is that the Father, a real person, (as revealed to us in the Bible) is the ‘Thought of God’, the Son, a real person (Jesus is revealed to us as ‘Son’) is the expression of the Father’s Thought – puts them into ‘Word’ (Jesus is also revealed as the Word of God John 1:1), and the Holy Spirit, a real person, is the activator of that articulated Word. Although the Three Persons always act together, not as separate entities. They each possess, in totality, the same substance.
The words ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ can also stump us. God had to use human words and expressions to reveal His virtually inexpressible Truth so that our belief might also be informed in some way towards understanding, although we can never understand fully. Human words are inadequate. Father is used because He generates. Son is used because He is generated. But the Son is not actually generated, rather He ‘Proceeds’. The Father does not generate because He has always been co-equal and co-existent with the Christ and Holy Spirit. God (One God in three persons) has always existed – He is perfect existence. Here our captivity to time, makes it difficult to appreciate that God is beyond time, and there has never been a ‘time’ when God in Trinity has not existed.
The word and reality of ‘Son’ usually has a clearer meaning for us in the Incarnation, which was in our dimension of time, when Christ, the Logos, the Word took flesh from the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not in two parts, but as one Person with Two natures, human and divine. And this is perpetuated by the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist. The Holy Spirit also is not ‘generated’ – He also ‘Proceeds’ – has always existed.
However, we must always continue to refer to God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – as that is how He has been revealed to us in divinely inspired human words in the Bible.
On Thursday 30th May at 7.30pm, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, taking our humanity with Jesus into the very heart of Godhead. It is always a challenge to know whether to keep such a glorious feast on its actual day, or transfer it to a Sunday when more people are likely to be present. Different denominations or Churches have their own rules or ideas. Many people including myself, prefer to keep the Feast on its proper day, even a weekday, but it is extremely frustrating when after all the hard work in organising and performing a Sung Eucharist, we might get a congregation of 10 or 20! Why a Sung or Solemn Eucharist – because primarily it gives greater glory to God and in a secondary way, might hopefully attract more people than a ‘said’ Eucharist. Nonetheless, even when few people may be present, the Eucharist is still the Eucharist, a means of grace for our Parish and the world – it is the offering and participation of Calvary to the Father beyond time, and anyway, we always have a Church full of Angels and Saints in the communion of saints!
Following the Ascension of the Lord, the Holy Spirit is sent in His fulness, to all believers, when we celebrate Pentecost on Sunday 9th June. We pray with John 23rd (1961): “Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in our time, as though for a new Pentecost, and grant that the holy church, preserving unanimous and continuous prayer, together with Mary the Mother of Jesus, and also under the guidance of St. Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen”
On Sunday 23rd June we celebrate the Feast of The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi – transferred!) Just a few words here about the indwelling Jesus in relation to the Eucharistic Jesus. Here’s a fair question: “When we have Jesus (along with the Father and the Son) dwelling inside us, and Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass, do we have “Jesus competing with Jesus for our attention, or some kind of Jesus redundancy?”
Of course not! Such a problem—to have two presences of Jesus in your soul at the same time! Wish more of our problems could be like that! We know that by loving Jesus and obeying his commandments, Jesus dwells in the tabernacle of your heart. Now, it is also true that when you receive Jesus in the Eucharist you will truly have Jesus in your soul and body.
So what’s the difference and why are these two “presences of Jesus” not superfluous?
Let’s establish how these two presences of Jesus are different. As we’ve seen revealed in Scripture and Tradition, the Trinity really and truly dwells in the human soul in grace. They are truly and really there – the Trinity in you – if you love Jesus.
Secondly, in the case of the Eucharist, we receive Jesus in his real sacramental presence, that is, the Person of Jesus, in his body, blood, soul, and divinity. That’s why in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us directly: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (Jn. 6:53-55).
But notice the very next thing Jesus tells us after revealing his real presence in the Eucharist: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in him” (Jn. 6:56).
There it is. That word “abides” is packed with meaning. What Jesus is conveying is that his Eucharistic presence will support and sustain his indwelling presence. This has such massive consequences.
Jesus Himself points us to the fact that His Eucharistic presence and His indwelling presence are not superfluous, but profoundly complementary. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist (and we should, not only every Sunday, but as many times during the week that we possibly can), Jesus enters, for a temporary time, into our soul with the full dynamism of the real and physical. Jesus becomes part of our body, we of His. The Eucharist divinises us – makes us, in degrees, alter Christus, another Christ for other people.
But his physical Eucharistic presence departs from our souls as soon as our bodies break down the consecrated host. That’s why it is so important to pray to him in his abiding presence in the Reserved Sacrament in the Tabernacle or in the Monstrance. The reception of the Eucharistic Jesus temporarily enlivens and sustains in our hearts the ongoing indwelling presence of Jesus. The Eucharist is the highest and most profound form of Christian Prayer, because it opens up, sustains, maintains and deepens the Abiding presence of Jesus. Its not that He goes away – its because other things start to crowd Him out. Can this sustaining and deepening abiding presence be achieved through non-Eucharistic services, prayer meetings and koinonia fellowship? Certainly to a degree but not in the same powerful and Biblical way as in the Eucharist.
That’s why Jesus said that for those who receive his body and blood in the Eucharist, the result is that he will “abide” in them. That’s the constant indwelling presence of Jesus in our souls, but with a new brightness and power, which leads to a new or renewed recognition, awareness, and, God-willing, response to His divine indwelling on our part.
Finally, from the rich and dynamic Lumen Gentium issued in 1964, Mary’s threefold relationship with the (Three) divine Persons is confirmed in precise words and with a description of the characteristic relationship which links the Mother of the Lord to the Church: “She is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit” (Lumen gentium, n. 53).
However, this most high dignity does not hinder Mary’s solidarity with each of us. Lumen Gentium goes on to say: “But, being of the race of Adam, she is at the same time also united to all those who are to be saved” and she has been “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.
After Pentecost, we go into Ordinary Time, which is a misnomer because its far from Ordinary! It’s the time when most of the life of the church goes on – The Green Season for most of the year. And its in this Ordinary Time that some extraordinary things are going to start happening in our Parish Church. Come, Holy Spirit! I wish you all a happy and blessed Ordinary Time.
Love and prayers
Fr. Ray Whelan