26 May 2013

In the face of Mystery, we wait. . .

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity 2013 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church/Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA 

 If we were to wonder about the fundamental difference between scientists and believers, we could say that scientists work to expose the mysteries of the universe by use of reason alone, while believers—Christian believers—work along side mystery in reason and wonder to expose themselves to God and His handiwork. Scientists hope to learn more about the universe for the sheer delight of gaining practical knowledge. Believers hope to learn more about creation so that their joy may be complete by growing closer to their Creator. The fundamental difference btw science and faith hinges on mystery. For science, a mystery is a problem is to be solved. For faith, mystery is a truth not yet revealed. What we share with science is the alluring power of Not Yet, the seduction of knowing just enough to keep us motivated to learn more. When Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” scientists hear a challenge but believers hear a promise. The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled at Pentecost. And with the coming of the Holy Spirit, God reveals the central mystery of the faith: He is Three in One. 

How to describe this essential mystery? We could say that the Trinity is like a single drop of water in three forms: fluid, frozen, vaporous. But the Trinity is Three in One simultaneously, while a drop of water cannot be fluid, frozen, and vaporous all at the same time. We could say that the Trinity is like a woman who is simultaneously a mother, an aunt, and a sister. But the Trinity is Three in One absolutely, relative only to one another, while a woman is a mother, an aunt, and a sister only in relation to her children, her nieces, and her siblings. We could say that the Trinity is like a person with three jobs: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. The Father creates; the Son redeems; and the Spirit sanctifies. That's not wrong as such but if the Three are One then all Three must each be Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. You begin to see the problem, right? How do we describe what is essentially unsayable, indescribable? We know that God is Three Persons in One Divinity, but how do we make sense of this mystery? We wait. Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. . .” He doesn't say that we can never bear all that he has to tell us; we just can't bear all the truth right now. So, we wait and trust and hold ourselves in hope that the fullness of this mystery will revealed when we are finally perfected. 

What do we do in the meantime? Between knowing the little that we know and knowing the whole truth, what do we do? Jesus reassures us, “. . .when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” If the Spirit of Truth comes to guides us, then we must make our ready to be guided. And how do we do that? Writing to the Romans, Paul, teaches: “. . .we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint. . .” As followers of Christ, we boast about both our blessings and our afflictions. We boast of our blessings to show the world the mercy of God. We boast of our afflictions to produce endurance, character, and hope. What we do btw imperfect and perfect knowing is live our lives in that sure knowledge that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. . .” When our imperfect knowledge of God's mysteries fails us, love never will b/c God is love and He never fails. And that is the definition of hope: knowing that God never fails. He never fails to provide, to forgive, to honor His promises. We prepare ourselves to be guided by the Spirit by hoping, by accepting the truth that God will not/cannot fail us.

If we accept this truth and live this truth, then we are living with God who is Three in One. We are living trinitarian lives. Since the first century of the Church, our ancestors made a distinction btw the theological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The theological Trinity is the Trinity as He knows and understands Himself. Reason alone cannot help us know or understand God as He knows and understands Himself. So, how do we know anything at all about the Trinity? Since all of creation abides in God, and we live and move and have our being in God, we can look to creation and see the Trinity's presence there. The Trinity works in creation, works through His creatures to reveal His truest nature. This is the economic Trinity. When we love forgive, provide, bless, create, trust, sacrifice, and bear witness to Christ, we manifest—imperfectly, of course—we manifest the Blessed Trinity. Each one of us is a sliver of the mystery that is the Trinity working in creation. Each one of us reveals how we are the Father's favored child, the Son's brother or sister, the Spirit's student and servant. Each one of us is a piece of God's peace, His assurance that all is well, that everything will always be well with Him. 

And we know that all will be well with Him b/c, as the Catechism teaches us, “The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity” (n. 260). The whole point of God's cosmic plan of salvation is to bring us to Him to live perfectly united in Him. Do we need a scientific understanding of the divine mysteries to be perfect? No. Besides, science cannot perfect us. Do we need to work along side the divine mysteries in wonder and reason in order to be made perfect? Yes. B/c we cannot be made perfect, we cannot be brought to God w/o our consent and help. Mysteries of the faith—like the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection—are all revealed truths that we do not yet fully understand. We know that God is Three Persons in One Divine Being. We know that Christ is fully human, fully divine. We know that Christ was raised from his tomb body and soul. And we even have some inkling of what these mysteries mean to our daily lives as followers of Christ. What we don't yet know, what we cannot yet bear, is the weight, the fullness of these truths completely revealed. For that we must wait to see God face-to-face. And to see Him face-to-face, we must submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit urges us to live trinitarian lives. We read in the Catechism: “Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him” (n. 259). Open yourself to being drawn by the Father to follow Christ. Open yourself to being moved by the Spirit to follow Christ. Follow Christ—wholly abandoned to him—and you will find yourself working along side the mysteries of faith in wonder and reason, opening your heart and mind to all that God has to show you. When Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” scientists hear a daring challenge but believers hear a loving promise. Christ promises to make us strong enough, whole enough, beautiful enough to bear up under every truth, all truth, fully revealed and wondrously arrayed. And because of this promise “we boast in hope of the glory of God.” 
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  1. We wait...... awesome reflection. I have always said holy mysteries are not to be solved, but we still should allow them to draw us deeper into them.

    Thanks and have a great Sunday!

  2. I received very similar advice yesterday in confession, but he made his point in about 2minutes ;-)!

    I thought this was very good. When listening, I got a little lost at the start of para. 4 - and lost again when I read it. Probably just me, but I heard what seemed like a logical statement (If . . . then . . . .), but didn't hear what I needed to hear prior to it to make a leap to that conclusion. I worked it out, but it took me more than the few seconds I was given when hearing it.

    I greatly appreciated the ending. "For that we must wait . . ." affected me unexpectedly on an emotional level, with the final paragraph and "open...open...abandon...." drawing me into why I had that response and encouraging me onward in my quest. And I really liked the line which began: "Christ promises to make us . . . ." Wow. Beautifully written and phrased.

    Thank you!

    1. I declare "not guilty by reason of squirrel brain"! You can't expect me to make "logical" connections. . .come on. . .how modernist and patriarchal of you! ;-)