May 31, 2010

The Trinity our Home

When Elisabeth of the Trinity wrote a retreat for her sister, the first thing she did to encourage the young mother was to describe the Trinity as our home, the place where we out to dwell. Elisabeth knew that her sister would resonate with this image because she herself was making a home for her husband and infant children. When one is at home, one finds the space to be oneself and at the same time the freedom to give oneself in love. It is the eternal plan of the Father that each of us should discover in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit this same freedom and space so that we might become whom He has predestined us to be from all eternity. For Elisabeth, this means finding our home in the Trinity allows us to become the praise of God's glory. The Church affirms the mystery of the Three in One and One in Three because when we carefully ponder it, we are drawn by it into the very heart of our faith. In this reflection, we will ponder what it means to be “person,” in what way God is Three Persons and finally our need for communion with the Trinity.

To be person is to have the potential to be at once a gift for another and the possessor of the gift of another. We first experience the gift of another person’s love as an infant, and this experience forms us to give ourselves in love. A mother's love surrounds us in the womb and when we come forth into the world, her breasts sustain us and her loving hands console us. St. Augustine explains that we do not have distinct memories of this experience. But these experiences nevertheless began to form us. As we encounter others beyond our mother, first and foremost, our father, we become aware of relationships - we distinguish ourselves from others and discover that they like us are free, and that this freedom can be used to love.

Yet from time primordial we have used this freedom very imperfectly to our own peril. But for the absence of love in our hearts where love ought to be, each of us would have been completely nurtured in love into adulthood. We know all to well that our noble desire for true friendship is subject to futility; and we are much too at home with our capacity to betray and deny our friendships -- just as was done to us by those we most trusted to have loved us. We yearn for love we do not have, burdened with guilt for something beyond and behind our own guilty actions, and haunted by the thought of our own mortality.

The Divine Persons are not like any created person for they do not exist in the merely potential but live completely and always in the actual – They are an eternal now allowing each moment that we experience to exist for us. Mystics like Elisabeth of the Trinity emphasize that to love the Trinity is to begin to realize that eternal now already in time – their exceeding love for us creates the present moment and makes it a kind of sacrament in which we can find God. Yet this is only a beginning. Even if there are angelic powers that have always used their freedom to love perfectly - the perfection of that love is contingent on and circumscribed by the creative action of an eternal and unending act of love in which dwell the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The mutual freedom in love shared by each Divine Person in his distinct relations reveals a co-eternal ‘spiritual space’ at the heart of all true love.