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Tell Me About the Trinity: Honoring Jerry and Plumbing the Mystery of God in Himself and Us in God
By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
'The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith.' (Catholic Catechism)
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - On this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity I am always struck by the profundity and deep implications of the central mystery which the Catholic Church proclaims - and calls us to not so much grasp - but be grasped by - that the God who is One is also three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So central to the Christian faith is this doctrine of the Holy Trinity that the entire first section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is dedicated to an exposition of the biblical and patristic roots of the truth. It should be read, re-read, prayed through and then read again.
The Catechism affirms: 'The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith.
'The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.
This paragraph expounds briefly (I) how the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was revealed, (II) how the Church has articulated the doctrine of the faith regarding this mystery, and (III) how, by the divine missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, God the Father fulfills the "plan of his loving goodness" of creation, redemption and sanctification." (CCC#234, 235)
However, since 2005, I am also drawn back to a life changing experience I had in ministry which opened the mystery up to me. I want to share it again with my readers on this weekend on which the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday.
It was June of 2005. I was at the bedside of a dear friend, a faithful and inspiring Catholic Christian.
He was dying; just the night before he had received the news that he had less than two weeks to live. The cancer that he fought with such heroic courage had spread throughout his lymph glands. He was preparing for the passing to the Father with the dignity and beauty that authentic Catholic Christian faith can forge in a soul receptive to grace.
Jerry lived a full and fascinating life.
He was always a staunch and courageous defender of the Catholic faith. He reminded me of the great lay evangelist Frank Sheed - at least what I imagine Frank Sheed was like, since I never met him. My friend loved to tell anyone who would listen of the beauty and fullness of truth found in the Catholic Christian faith. In fact, he would engage any issue concerning that faith, with anyone, and at any time.
He especially delighted when Christians of other communities would come home to the full communion of the Catholic Church.
As a Deacon of the Church, I had the privilege of bringing Viaticum to him on that day. His beloved wife sat next to him, displaying the courage, beauty and dignity of sacramentally grounded, faithful married love. Theirs was the kind of transforming love that had stood the test - and the invitation- of so many years and had only grown stronger and deeper. It no longer needed words, only presence.
I prayed with them both that day, at that bedside.
After the completion of the Viaticum Service, during a tender and profound moment of silence, Jerry turned to me, focused his piercing, peaceful, and intensely inquisitive eyes upon my own, and asked a question that was so unusual - and so profound- that I have dwelt upon it since.
I will carry it within me for many years to come.
"Tell me about the Trinity", my friend asked me, "are they really happy?"
By God's grace, I was not taken aback by such a profound and unexpected question. In fact, the Holy Spirit gave me an immediate response.
"My friend, they are intensely happy - and soon you will join in their joy" I said.
I continued, "There is a Greek word used in Eastern Christian theology in an attempt to open up the mystery of the intra-Trinitarian relationship to us mere mortals."
I could tell from his eyes that I had captured his attention.
He and I had shared many times about theological truths and the deeper meaning of our Catholic faith. He was such a wonderful example of the great gift whom John Paul the Great referred to as the "Lay members of Christ's Faithful" in his letter that bore that title.
A natural theologian, my friend had deepened his own practical and mystical prayer life with a lifelong program of theological and spiritual reading.
"What is it?" he asked
"The Greek word is perichoresis", I told him.
I continued, "It is loosely translated as a joyful dance of love. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are joined in continual dance of love and, very soon, you will be invited to join in."
Without missing a beat, a smile broke out on his hollowed face; he leaned toward me and responded: "I hope I can keep up with them".
"You will", I assured him, "and you will pray for all of us."
I have learned in my years of Diaconal ministry in the Church that people die the way they live. I have seen this truth demonstrated many, many, many times.
On that precious day, right before my eyes, I was witnessing the transforming power of faith and the reception of the last gift given to those who really believe; the grace of a peaceful death.
A priest friend told me when I was a young man that the most requested prayer he received from people facing death was the "Hail Mary"; a prayer that Catholics are taught from their childhood.
In that prayer, after reciting the message the Angel gave to the Virgin of Nazareth, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus", we ask Mary, the mother of the Lord and our mother, to pray for us in these words:
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."
After I left my friend's house that day, I prayed that prayer all the way home. I thanked God for the witness of this faithful Catholic man who was ready to die, because of how he had lived.
Words quickly became inadequate. I arrived home and sat in silence.
"Tell me about the Trinity" Jerry had asked me. In the inquiry he brought me closer to the Dance of love that he has now joined. The entire encounter filled me with unspeakable joy. It still does every time I reflect upon it.
My friend taught me a lesson at the hour of death; one that I will treasure for eternity. Now, at almost every Mass where I serve as a Deacon, I pray for Jerry. I know he also prays for me. I periodically ask him the question which he asked me on that day. I know he has the full answer.
"Tell me about the Trinity?"
On this Trinity Sunday, Jerry is joined in the joyful dance of love. Let us enter in with him, beginning now.
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