May 30, 2021: The Most Holy Trinity - Pastor’s Corner
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…. Amen!
The Sign of the Cross is one of the first prayers I learned. Though I learned this prayer as child, I’ve come to appreciate its gestures and words as a concise summary of the mystery of God and of our salvation. This week, we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unique to Christianity and is essential for our salvation. God is not an isolated being or force out in the universe but is a dynamic relationship of life. The Father is the principle of life, the Son is the eternally Begotten and the Holy Spirit is the shared life which proceeds from them. (Yes, we are filoque people!) In creation, God creates us in His Image and Likeness. We bear the stamp of the Trinity in our soul. Just as God is a relationship of persons, so too, the Trinity invites us to share in the divine life. Though we think of this sharing as finding its fullness in heaven, this participation begins now through the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Each of these virtues might be attributed to the Persons of the Trinity while considering the words and gestures of the Sign of the Cross.
The Sign of Cross begins with naming God as Father while touching our forehead. This is a gesture of faith. In the Scriptures, it is the revelation of God as Father which is the foundation of faith. From Abraham onward, those who believe in God are moved to trust in God as providential. There is a difference from a belief that God exists and a belief that moves us towards God (in Latin, “credere Deum” versus “credere in Deum.”) Even the devil believes that God exists, so faith which saves comes only when we trust in God as Father. Saint Augustine says that when you profess “I believe in one God” (credo in unum Deum) you are actually placing yourself “into God.” Faith does not spare us from the difficult moments of life: tragedy, depression, dark nights, betrayal, confusion, bankruptcy, divorce, cancer, and death. But faith in God allows us to believe and trust in God as Father. For this reason, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, He begins by encouraging us to call God Abba (“daddy”). When we call God Father, we activate saving faith.
The Sign of the Cross continues by bringing our hand down to our breast and naming God as Son. This is a gesture of hope. Just as the Son of God descended from His place at the right hand of His Father to become one with our humanity, so too Jesus’ death and Resurrection promises that we will ascend to a heavenly place prepared for us. This is the substance of hope: confidence in the promise that God has prepared a place for those who follow him. There are various things which we hope for, i.e., the end of the pandemic, the blessings of health and financial stability. But as good as these hopes are, the ultimate source of our hope is in the cross. It is only through union with Christ’s suffering and death that we also share in His Resurrection. As we place our hand on our heart and name God as Son, we are heartened with the hope that the One who plunged Himself into the depths of our fragile, broken humanity will raise us up to live with Him.
The Sign of the Cross finds completion by traversing our wingspan from left to right shoulder as we name God as Holy Spirit. This is a gesture of love. On Pentecost, Fr. Christopher reminded us that the proper name of the Holy Spirit is Love. When God the Father Loves the Son, the Son reciprocates and this shared Love is so intimate that it is the very Personification of Love. When our right hand stretches us to touch our left shoulder, we recall God’s love for us. Often, we think that God loves us because we do good for others. When we love others, then God loves us. Quid pro quo. But this is upside down. God loves us unconditionally. In fact, our ability to love others is dependent precisely on our ability to receive God’s love in its fulness. Only when we have an open heart and mind to be loved can we then turn to love others. By naming God as Holy Spirit, while we span the width of our shoulders with a sweeping gesture, we are embraced by God’s love. The Sign of the Cross is the embrace of God’s love which empowers us to love.
Let’s celebrate this Trinity Sunday with the Sign of Cross. We touch our forehead asking for the faith to trust God as Father. We place our hand on our heart in the hope that we are destined for a heavenly place. We swoop our hand from shoulder to shoulder in the embrace of God’s love, so that we might have arms open to love others as we pray: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…. Amen!
~ Fr. Michael