Saturday, May 29th, 2021

‘Quis enim cognovit?’ A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

For who hath known the mind of the Lord (Romans 11, xxiv)?

In the face of today’s high mystery, we must do two things. First, to understand, at least to the extent we can; and second, to adore. Because, as I am always saying, the spiritual life is strong to the extent that our knowledge moves us to love.

We must be clear about one thing at the beginning: today is not a feast day which gives special honor to the Most Holy Trinity—for every Holy Mass is directed to the honor and adoration of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is why we make the Sign of the Cross so often. (Is it too much to say that it is the noblest prayer we may teach our children?) But today does direct our attention in a particular way to one of the dogmas of the Faith; we should say, the most fundamental dogma of the faith.

And before we say that the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is too much for us, we must stop ourselves: because we perceive more than we may think. The very placement of this feast in the cycle of the liturgical year tells us something. For today is a kind of octave day of Pentecost, which brings the Paschal Cycle to a close, and which is also the end of what Schuster calls ‘the cycle of the soteriological liturgy.’[1] That is to say, today ends a great drama that began on the First Sunday of Advent. From that day until this day—a full half of the liturgical year—we have seen the Most Holy Trinity at work. 

The Father permits the Son, by an overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, to take flesh in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin. We contemplate the birth and life of the Christ Child, who had to be about his Father’s business, as he grew in wisdom and grace by his union with the Holy Ghost. That is the Christmas Cycle. Epiphany gives way to Septuagesima and Lent, and we begin to see the intensification of Christ’s public life: he teaches about the Father whom he loves, heals and drives out demons by the force of the Holy Ghost, and begins to form the Church around his sacred person.

In Passiontide we see how fixed the Heart of Christ is on his Father; how he withholds not even the last drop of his Precious Blood to atone for sin. And then at Easter we behold Christ the Son, risen and victorious, who immediately goes about speaking of the Holy Ghost, the Promised of the Father. Then the Son returns joyously to the Father, but without leaving the Church an orphan: for in the blink of an eye the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, rushes upon the newborn Church, as promised. And that is when the full revelation of the Most Holy Trinity is complete—which brings us to today’s feast with its perfectly succinct Gospel, the concluding verses of the Gospel of St Matthew. 

I have just outlined for you what theology calls ‘the economic Trinity:’ the Holy Trinity we see at work in salvation history. But theology also reflects upon the immanent Trinity, that is, the Most Holy Trinity as it exists in itself, irrespective of the work of creation and salvation. For now I must simply leave you with the distinction. But it is just here that human language begins to buckle under the weight of the mystery, and our speech must become adoration.

It is not foolish for us to bask in the consolation of the great doctors of the Church who have wrestled, Jacob-like, with the mystery. It is enough to know that our fathers in God have preached, fought for, and even bled and died for the dogma of the Most Holy Trinity. And there is a reason for this—the very fact that we know the mystery, whether we can say much about it or little, tells us something. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity reveals to us just how truly God has called us friends:

I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you.[2] 

And that is the answer to St Paul’s question in our epistle today: ‘Who hath known the mind of the Lord?’ The prophets and patriarchs heard rumors of the dogma, but it was not given to them in its fullness. And yet we know it, and not as the property of the theologians only. It is the dogma that makes us children—children of the font and of the Most High’s merciful choosing. Imagine it! I bless you with a dogma at the end of every Holy Mass: Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus. Who hath know the mind of the Lord, indeed.        


[1] The Sacramentary, vol III, p 75.

[2] John 15, xv.

{Art Credit: El Greco, The Holy Trinity (1577-1579); El Prado}

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