The Holy Trinity and Love as Trinitarian


Today is Trinity Sunday which celebrates the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Spirit. Many thinkers over the years have tried to give images to explain the trinity, from simple images like St Patrick and his three leafed clover to Augustine’s sophisticated comparisons of the Trinity to the different faculties of the human mind. Central to the mystery of the Trinity is the idea that God is both a real unity and three persons that are distinct yet always in relation to one another.

My colleague Fr Michael Himes, taking a cue from Augustine, often emphasizes the Trinity as a relationship of love. (See for example his book Doing the Truth in Love) “God is love” (1 John 4:16). This phrase does not mean simply that God has a capacity to love or a separate quality of love, but rather that as a being of Trinitarian relationship God’s very being IS love. God is a substantial unity of dynamic, loving relationship. The Creator, the Son, the Spirit are all constantly engaged in a mutual dynamic of love, and we are made in the image of this Trinitarian God, so we also are, essentially, made of love.

The love of the Triune God does not remain in God but goes out to all of us. The Holy Spirit is shared with us, so we are drawn as participants into God’s loving action, through the Spirit which infuses us and works through us, and is also found in other persons. We are invited to be not only recipients of divine love (like children), but also loving persons who are friends with the Lord (in a more adult way) through self gift when we give away that love to others.

There is a way in which all human love is Trinitarian, too: whenever we love another person, we are joined in a threefold relationship of God, self, and other. God is always present in any loving relationship. For us human beings, though, the Other whom we love changes from moment to moment, day to day, or year to year, while God and ourselves are constantly present. If in the course of my day I move from loving my husband to doing something for my kids to teaching or listening to students, the Other shifts, but God is always there. I like to think about it as akin to a fugue in which multiple voices are present but what the predominant voice in the music shifts.

Catherine of Siena says, we are made “of love, for love, and by love.” What a difference this makes if we take each part to heart. Love created us, Love is the action for which we are intended, and Love is our very nature.

2 thoughts on “The Holy Trinity and Love as Trinitarian

  1. “The elect will become part of the very family of God as they enter into the circle of the Holy Trinity. In them, the Father will generate his Word; the Father and the Son will issue forth Love. Charity will assimilate them to the Holy Spirit and meanwhile the vision will assimilate them to the Word, who in turn will make them similar to the Father whose expression He is. At that time we will be able to say truly that we know and love the Trinity that dwells in us as in a temple of glory, and we shall be in the Trinity, at the summit of Being, Thought and Love. This is the glory; this is the goal to which our spiritual progress tends — configuration to the Word of God.” — Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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