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The central Mystery of the Faith, the Source of Reality

On the Readings for June 4, 2023, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

(Photo: © zwiebackesser -
(Image: ©zwiebackesser - Fotolia.com_

• Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9
• Dan 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
• 2 Cor 13:11-13
• Jn 3:16-18

The Trinity, the Catechism states, is “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC 234). There are, I think, a couple of mistakes that can be made when it comes to thinking about this great mystery.

The first is to treat the dogma of the Trinity as a fascinating but abstract concept, a cosmic Rubik’s Cube that challenges us to fit all of the pieces into their place through elaborate, brain-twisting moves. What might begin as a sincere desire to understand better the mystery of one God in three persons can be a dry academic exercise. If we’re not careful, the Trinity can become a sort of theological artifact that is interesting to examine on occasion but which doesn’t affect how we think, speak, and live.

The second mistake is to simply avoid thoughtful consideration of the nature and meaning of the Trinity. The end result of this flawed perspective is similar to the first, minus all of the study: to throw up one’s hands in frustrated impatience, “Well, it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t see what it has to do with me and my life!” While many Christians might not consciously come to that conclusion, the way they think and live suggests that is, unfortunately, their attitude.

In a sermon given in the early 1970s, Joseph Ratzinger wrote of how “the Church makes a man a Christian by pronouncing the name of the triune God.” The essential point of being a Christian is to have faith in God. Yet, he wrote, this can be disappointing and incomprehensible if not understood correctly. The primary concern in Christianity, he explained, “is not the Church or man, but God. Christianity is not oriented to our own hopes, fears, and needs, but to God, to his sovereignty and power. The first proposition of the Christian faith and the fundamental orientation of Christian conversion is: ‘God is.’” (The God of Jesus Christ [Ignatius Press, 2008], pp 26-27).

This truth was dramatically revealed to Moses when God spoke from the burning bush and declared, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). In today’s Old Testament reading, from a later passage in Exodus, God further proclaims who and what He is: “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

But God, of course, is not static or even stoic. In the words of the French poet, Paul Claudel, “we worship a living God who acts, who breathes, who exhales his very Self.” This is beautifully expressed by Saint John the Theologian in today’s Gospel reading. While Moses had been sent by God to reveal the reality and name of God, the Son was sent by the Father to reveal the mystery of God’s inner life, which is perfect love and self-gift (cf., CCC 236, 257). “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” Why? That we might have eternal life. And what is eternal life? It is actually sharing in the supernatural life of the Blessed Trinity.

Far from being abstract or of little earthly value, the Trinity is the source of reality and the reason our earthly lives have meaning and purpose. Because God is, we have a reason to be. Because God is love, we are able to truly love. Because God is unity, we are able to be united to Him. Because God is three Persons, we are able to have communion with Him.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus once wrote, “Above all guard for me this great deposit of faith for which I live and fight, which I want to take with me as a companion, and which makes me bear all evils and despise all pleasures: I mean the profession of faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 256). May we guard our belief in the Triune God with our lives. And may we better know that the Trinity gives us life. Make no mistake about it!

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the May 18, 2008, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


    • Catholicism doesn’t teach similar to Protestants that by baptism, or an act of faith that we are saved. That pronouncement belongs to God. God’s judgment depends on the practice of our faith, not merely proclaiming it.

    • Possessing Faith in Jesus great enough to Move Mountains, Yet Jesus burns them in hell as ‘Evildoers’, V.S., Martin Luther’s, “Faith Alone”, “Sin Boldly, ‘No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day’”

      Matthew 7:21 The True Disciple.
      Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. When that day comes, many will plead with me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ have we not prophesied in your name? have we not exorcized demons by its power? Did we not do many miracles in your name as well? Then I will declare to them solemnly, I never knew you. Out of my sight, you evildoers!

      John 14:15
      If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

      1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Excellence of the gift of love.
      Now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

      John 15:22
      If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father. If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’

      John 5:27
      “The Father has given over to him power to pass judgment because he is Son of Man; no need for you to be surprised at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live; the evildoers shall rise to be damned.”

      1 John 5:3
      For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,

      Catechism 2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; The Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.”

  1. It seems many, perhaps the majority persons are bewildered because they focus their attention on three persons one God, almost as if a mathematical equation, rather than a faithful examination of the necessity of three persons in the Christian dispensation.
    Only the Father was capable of saving Man, although the dilemma is it had to be accomplished by a Man, the son of man, Jesus of Nazareth. Thus two natures, one divine, one human explicated by Cyril of Alexandria. Christ’s death, Resurrection, and Ascension required the ‘pouring out’, of the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen Man in his efforts for salvation. It’s all accomplished by the same God the Father. Thus, “the Trinity is the source of reality and the reason our earthly lives have meaning and purpose” (Olson).

    • Correction. Actually, it’s all accomplished by the same, one, true God manifest by the three persons of the Trinity.
      I corrected myself on this elsewhere, although it’s too important a theological truth to leave uncorrected.

  2. We read: “The first proposition of the Christian faith and the fundamental orientation of Christian conversion is: ‘God is.’”

    A victimized word today, this “orientation”…absconded by the barbarians…The new dispensation, instead, is not that the reality of what “is” informs ideas, but that ideas generate reality.

    There is no God, or even less a self-disclosing Triune God…these notions are only reified figures of speech generated by illiterates of old. Among today’s illuminati even the human body is fundamentally and only a projection of ideas, a complex of goat entrails to be interpreted randomly. As under the theology and biology of transgenderism.

    This “idea”(!) is ubiquitous, fluid, cross-boundary, global and inclusive!

    Comrade Biden promotes both the contradiction of gender theory and a theology of contradiction—with regard to goat entrails still labeled by some retrogrades as “child”. Likewise, churchy cardinals promote a “walking together” theology of action-oriented synodality—which in the vademecum embraces Gospel values (ideas!) while not naming the incarnate Jesus Christ (Reality!). This editing oversight (?) together with a between-the-lines and fluid moral theology.

    Instead of the lint-gathering of ideas (!) by rubbing shoulders synodally, why not by rubbing everything else? Hollerich’s “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching [on sexual morality] is no longer true [….] I think it’s time we make a fundamental revision of the doctrine.”

    In answer to Comrade Bill Clinton, is this version of synodality “what the meaning of is, is”?

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