Ordinary time is anything but ordinary in our liturgical journey: In fact, our Church punctuates Ordinary time with feast days that highlight primary doctrines of the faith. Yesterday we celebrated the Holy Trinity. Corpus Christi follows next Sunday. The most abstract mystery of the Holy Trinity – that community of love which defines the Divine – is met in the most practical: The Body of Christ. This forms the essence of incarnational love, which Jesus bears and shares.
How can we incarnate Christ’s love? And how does the reality of Trinitarian communion affect how we understand our relationships with others?
The Incarnation begins within the love of the Trinity. God the Father sends his beloved Son to take the form of a man, live among us, suffer for us, and leave us His Body to sustain us. And Jesus sends us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to guide and strengthen us. In each of these ongoing Divine acts, all the persons of the Trinity is present, as each is at the Creation.
Our parents participated in incarnational love when they cooperated with Grace to bring us into this world. In the sanctity of the marital union the Trinity remains present. In our Baptism we are made one of Christ’s own through the rite that opens our souls up to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in the waters and holy chrism of Baptism. Through the series of rites of initiation (Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation) our souls grow to receive more fully the Holy Trinity. At Baptism we are marked as one of Christ’s own. We receive His Body in the Eucharist in First Communion (and ongoing). At Confirmation, holy chrism confirms our branding as Christ’s own; and we receive the Holy Spirit. We are then guided toward our vocation: marriage or religious life.
How do we incarnate Christ’s love? As members of Christ’s body, who are fed with His Body and Blood and sustained in the Spirit, we are given abundant Grace, which overflows toward others. “And from his fullness we have received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) The joyful love of agape (selfless love of others in community) cannot be contained: It is not meant for us alone.
Each moment of our lives offers us choices in love. My baby awakens for the third time tonight: Do I respond in love and comfort him, or do I go back to sleep and let him cry it out? My child keeps bugging me to sit down and play with her. Do I set aside my tasks and take a moment to sit beside her and focus on her, or do I let her continue to wait? My teen starts up a conversation late at night. Do I say, let’s talk in the morning, or do I resist the lure of bed and stay to listen? My husband can’t find his keys again. Do I chide him for his forgetfulness, or do I stop what I’m doing and search with him? Does my colleague, who always seems to drop the ball, deserve my criticism or loving help? And what about the poor? The list goes on…
Pope John Paul II wrote: “[T]his “making known” by Christ we know God above all in His relationship of love for man: in His “philanthropy.”12 It is precisely here that “His invisible nature” becomes in a special way “visible” Dives in misericordia(I.ii)
Likewise Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.” Deus Caritas Est (I.xii)
The Trinity’s gift to man of Jesus, his self-offering to the Father in the Spirit, rests in us in the Eucharist. The life of God resides with in us. And the Divine residence in us is not a resting place so much as a launch-pad: We are called to love as God loves.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
The ever-present Trinity
Through the Sacraments of the Church, the Trinity takes residence in us. And we are called to sacrificial love and witness.
As the Trinity lives within us, so God in the Trinity remains present in all our relationships. When we talk with our children, the Holy Trinity is with us. In the marriage bed, the Holy Trinity is with us. When we talk to another, the Holy Trinity is with us. We are never alone! And no relationship is merely two-point; but the Trinity and all the angels and saints – that cloud of witnesses – is ever-present.
Our Orthodox brethren encourage us to see that icons provide windows to the Divine. This concrete medium provides reminders to the presence of the Divine in all we do. Knowing that the Trinity and all the angels and saints are present with us, would we talk sharply to our children, spouses or co-workers? No, if we really “got it” about the Divine presence, we’d be much more careful!
So, the Divine is always with us, and we are called to incarnate God’s love to others. We are reminded that all we are, all we have and all we do are within the embrace of God’s love. Let’s continue to strive to meet that embrace and to extend it to others – all others, all the time. It’s hard, but so is God’s call. At our Confirmation, tradition requires the bishop to gently slap us, a reminder that the Christian life necessarily includes suffering. And through Him all things are possible!