On Trinitarian Life
Today, Holy Trinity Sunday, bringing before us the all-encompassing mystery of God, a mystery that lives and sustains our world, humanity and creation. Last week for Pentecost Sunday I mentioned that one obstacle of the journey into the inner world, an obstacle which we all face, is that we can get too self-preoccupied, too caught up in ourselves…and still, with this happening as it will, it is essential to go deeper for there we find not only our true Self but we find also the God whom we are seeking. In The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality there is a profound essay on ‘Trinitarian Spirituality’. The authors lay out the connection between the Trinity and the spiritual life where they call attention “to the many dimensions of the human person and of the God-world relation, not just the ‘interior’ dimension or the ‘inner life’ of the person” (p.980). I think that if we understand what is at the heart of Trinitarian spirituality it will serve as a counterpoint to when there is too much focus on ‘me’ and my individual journey.
One definition of Trinitarian spirituality in this essay is the following: “Spirituality considered from a Trinitarian perspective is not anything other than Christian life in the Spirit: being conformed to the person of Christ and being united in communion with God and with others” (p.968). To repeat what is said here: Christian life is life lived in
the Spirit; and this practically means we conform ourselves to the person of Christ…meaning to have our lives lived in a similar way to his…we strive to love as he loved, to see from his perspective and consciousness, to have the same ‘attitude’ as Christ. To live in this way is how we become united with God and with one another.
The following text I believe gives a clear understanding of the doctrine that grounds Trinitarian spirituality: “The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that it belongs to God’s very nature to be committed to humanity and its history, that God’s covenant with us is irrevocable, that God’s face is immutably turned towards us in love, that God’s presence to us is utterly reliable and constant” (p.969). We behold, we witness these amazing affirmations about God’s very nature in Jesus. Jesus mediates to us through his person that God’s essential nature is commitment to humanity and its history, that God’s covenant with us will never be broken, that the face of God is always turned towards us in love, and that God’s presence to us is constant…even when don’t experience or sense it.
If this is God’s very nature, if this is how God is towards us, what does it say about how we are to be and to act in turn as followers of God’s Son? Augustine believed “that the structure of the individual human soul was a mirror image (vestige) of the Trinity. By knowing oneself, one would know God” (p.970). However this reality is not to be separated from “the communitarian dimensions of the Christian life” (p.970). Trinitarian spirituality emphasizes person, relationship and communion (p.970). While the human soul is a mirror image of the Trinity as Augustine so profoundly expresses it, this means that we are meant for communion, for relationship: “Since human beings are created in the image of an inherently relational God, human beings are not created as selves in isolation, but they are who they are, through and for others. This is the central mystery disclosed in the economy of salvation in the incarnate Word” (p.971). The implication of this text is that whatever grace we receive in prayer, whatever the fruit of self-knowledge, whatever deepening interiorly in our individual conversion work, whatever the process of our ‘individuation’ work, it needs to turn outward, to be reflected in our relationships one to another, to be shown in selfless service, to be given back in self-donation. To me what stretches the mind and heart is the reality that the Divine nature is relational…God is not an island unto God’s own Self and nor are we! The relationship within the Trinity, the relationship that IS the Trinity is stamped upon our hearts. God is always coming towards us seeking relationship and this relationship we have with God interiorly turns us outwardly in communion with one another and all of creation.
To show the breadth and depth of mystery of the triune God I quote the following: “The triune God is the paradigm of all human relationships. The divine Persons exist in a relationship of diversity, equality, mutuality, uniqueness, and interdependence. Theological reflection on the mystery of the triune God…is critical of modes of relationship built on domination/submission, power/powerlessness, or activity/passivity. Since the relational pattern of divine life is the norm of human life, relationships that respect difference, nurture reciprocity, and cultivate authentic complementarity are iconic of divine life” (p.980). Can we become a community rooted in the triune God, living in relationship where we honor and respect diversity, equality, uniqueness, where we are aware that we are interdependent, that my life does impact all other lives, where mutuality is cultivated, rather than ‘my way’ or else ‘no way’. Our society today, our world community today is in such need of Trinitarian life, of this quality of relationship.
Finally a prayer from William of St. Thierry:
You, the Beginning, to whom we are returning, the Pattern we are following,the grace by which we are reconciled,You we worship and bless!To you be glory for ever!Amen. (On Contemplating God, p.64)