We have thus far lived out the drama of Christ's earthly life
-- His Nativity at Christmas, His revealing Himself as God at the
Epiphany, His time in the desert at Lent, His Passion and Resurrection
at Good Friday and Easter. We recalled His glorious Ascension, and at
last week's Pentecost, the Holy Ghost has descended upon the Church,
sent by the Father and the Son.
God's Triune Nature has been fully revealed, and now we celebrate the
Most Holy Trinity on this day, hearing in today's Gospel, "All power is
given to Me in heaven and on earth. Going therefore, teach ye all
nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all the things whatsoever I
have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days even to the
consummation of the world" (this is known as the "Great Commission").
And with this Mass, the Time After Pentecost, the season that
represents the Church Age, begins. Vestments today will be white.
Symbols for the day include the
shamrock used by St. Patrick to
explain the Trinity to the ancient
Irish, the pansy -- Viola tricolor
-- called the "Trinity Flower," a
candle with 3 flames, the triangle, the trefoil, 3 interlocking
There are no particular customs for the day that I am aware of, but I
urge meditating on the short, poetic tale of St. Augustine's encounter
with the mysterious boy at the seashore, and reading the 4th c.
Athanasian Creed -- the statement of Faith that best summarizes
Catholic teaching on the Trinity. Both of these are presented below.
But first, I must present to you three musical works by the great
Johann Sebastian Bach -- a Lutheran, alas, but musically inspired by
the Catholicism that informs Western music. He wrote three works for
Trinity Sunday, and they are here, in mp3 format:
The Athanasian Creed
to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith. For unless a
person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost
forever. This is what the catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in
the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. Neither confounding the Persons,
nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father,
another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal
glory, and coeternal majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the
Holy Spirit is.
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is
uncreated. The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy
Spirit is boundless. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the
Holy Spirit is eternal.
Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal
being. So there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless
beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being. Likewise, the
Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is
Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent
being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is
However, there are not three gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the
Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. However, there are not three
lords, but one Lord. For as we are obliged by Christian truth to
acknowledge every Person singly to be God and Lord, so too are we
forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or
The Father was not made, nor created, nor generated by anyone. The Son
is not made, nor created, but begotten by the Father alone. The Holy
Spirit is not made, nor created, nor generated, but proceeds from the
Father and the Son. There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one
Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. In this
Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less. The
entire three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another. So
that in all things, as is has been said above, the Unity is to be
worshiped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.
He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus
about the Trinity. It is also necessary for eternal salvation that he
believes steadfastly in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus
the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. As God, He was begotten of
the substance of the Father before time; as man, He was born in time of
the substance of His Mother. He is perfect God; and He is perfect man,
with a rational soul and human flesh. He is equal to the Father in His
divinity, but inferior to the Father in His humanity. Although He is
God and man, He is not two, but one Christ. And He is one, not because
His divinity was changed into flesh, but because His humanity was
assumed unto God. He is one, not by a mingling of substances, but by
unity of person. As a rational soul and flesh are one man: so God and
man are one Christ. He died for our salvation, descended into Hell, and
rose from the dead on the third day. He ascended into Heaven, sits at
the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He shall come to
judge the living and the dead. At His coming, all men are to arise with
their own bodies; and they are to give an account of their own deeds.
Those who have done good deeds will go into eternal life; those who
have done evil will go into the everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and
steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen.