Into Deep Mystery
By Lucinda M. Vardey
As Christians we are baptized into the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore we have an ongoing relationship with the 3 aspects of a Trinitarian God that guide us in prayer and our lives.
In his letter to the Romans which forms the second reading today, St. Paul writes that all who are led by the Spirit of God are God’s children. Jesus calls God the Father. Jesus claims that everything he has said and done were not of his origin but the Father’s. Jesus therefore exemplifies how we are to be children of God.
He says he is our friend, shepherd, living water, true vine. He calls himself the Son of Man. He is God’s son and yet by also referring to himself as Son of Man, he confirms that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The Holy Spirit is the Advocate. The word advocate interestingly is a noun as well as a verb. It describes a promoter, supporter, backer, protector, missionary, reformer, pioneer and apologist who recommends, prescribes, advises, urges and sanctions.
The Trinity then, as we can see, is complicated! It’s not easy either to be in a steady relationship with all 3 at any one time; in fact it requires much grace and a desire to do so, and even then, the Trinity continues to be a mystery to us, as, in our limited understanding, it remains a mystery unto itself. We could say then that mystery is its substratum, but the mystery of God does not prevent us from being in relationship; in fact, through our baptism, we are called into a life founded on relationship with this mystery.
Many women saints and mystics had a particular aptitude for developing and maintaining a relationship with the Trinity. l9th century French Carmelite, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, a name she aptly received on entering religious life, wrote in her famous prayer to the Trinity to be carried each minute “to the depths of Your Mystery….wholly vigilant, wholly adoring and wholly surrendered to your creative action.” (Prayer written Nov 21 l904).
One insight into the mystery of the Trinity is that love binds the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their relationship. In today’s gospel Jesus directs his disciples to teach and obey “everything that I have commanded you” the first – and the greatest- he identified in Matthew 22:34 as loving God with all your heart, soul and mind” promising us, from his Sermon on the Mount, that the pure in heart will see God. We can then, in confidence, find our way to relating to the Trinity in our prayer by letting ourselves be open to this wholeness and purity of heart.
The love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that unites the Trinity, in turn, invites our participation. St. Elizabeth of the Trinity experienced such a loving unity as being immersed in the ocean of love, losing herself in the mystery and letting herself be loved. This has been one of her greatest insights, to “let ourselves be loved” by the Creator, Redeemer and Spirit. This letting ourselves be loved “all the time, through all things” she wrote, enables an infusion of the abiding presence within, where we become temples for the Holy Trinity. St. Elizabeth died young (at the age of 26) her last words were that she was going to “light, love, life.” It is as if she left us a definition of the Trinitarian mystery. That we are
- Children of Light – in the Father
- Friends of Love – in the Son
- Cooperators of God’s work in our lives and the life of the world in the Holy Spirit.
By letting ourselves be loved we can live, according to St. Elizabeth, in Jesus’ promise that He will be with us always to the end of time. That as God’s children, children of light, we can contemplate the abyss of God’s greatness, trusting in the movement of the Holy Spirit who she defined as, “Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love” to help us be “another humanity” for Jesus, to which Greg referred in his homily a couple of weeks ago.
Many centuries earlier we find similar descriptions of the experience of relating to the Trinitarian mystery from Doctor of the Church St. Catherine of Siena. She also
wrote of the Trinity as an abyss, a deep sea into which the more she entered the more she found, and the more she found the more she sought. The light of God illuminates Truth for her: she even asked to be clothed with eternal Truth. And the fire of the Holy Spirit is one that “ever burns without being consumed” – the fire that gives life to souls by removing all that is cold within.
English anchorite Julian of Norwich, who lived around the same time as St. Catherine, defined the Holy Spirit as “endless life dwelling in our soul.” 1
A prayer written by Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, similarly defines the Trinity as light, love and life. God as light, she wrote as “the ray that penetrates everything” and creates anew.
“You are the space that embraces my being and buries it in yourself….
You, nearer to me than I to myself And more interior than my most interior.”
Jesus is “the sweet manna that from the Son’s heart overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed. “ “The sweet song of love and of holy awe…The harmony that joins together…”
And the Holy Spirit “Through your breath” God’s fullness streams through me “Life of your life—indeed, you yourself.” 2
St. Marie of the Incarnation, a Canadian recently canonized by Pope Francis, explained the mystery of alliance within the Trinity as light, love and life held together by grace. She wrote “You are neither fire nor water nor anything we could say of you. You are what you are in your glorious eternity. You are: this is your essence and your name. You are life, divine life, living life, unifying life. You are all beatitude. You are super adorable oneness, ineffable, incomprehensible. In a word, you are Love, my love.” 3
The Holy Trinity is our source of love and wisdom. Julian of Norwich defines the workings of this loving wisdom as the Father who wills it, Jesus who works it and the Holy Spirit who confirms it.
In today’s reading Jesus shows that He, as light of the world is our doorway to the Trinity, he is our earthly embodiment of Love, our source of Wisdom on how to live with Mystery.
1 The Revelation of Divine Love: Fourteenth Showing
2 quoted in The Flowering of the Soul: A book of prayers by women p. 46/47
3 ibid p. 336