The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 16, 2019
A number of folks have recently asked me what I think about Pope Francis’s decision to “change the Lord’s Prayer.” That was the way the secular headlines announced what I would report as a clarification of a single element in the English translation, as opposed to the kind of radical alteration that the media suggests. Scripture scholars on both sides of the clarification have certainly been quick to offer their “expert opinions” as to why this is or is not appropriate. Moreover, true to form, Roman Catholic faithful, from what I hear anyway, are divided by the issue according to how they identify themselves: conservative/orthodox/traditional/liberal.
Had a quotation attributed to Pope Benedict XVI, back some 40 years ago when he was still known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, made the secular headlines, it would most definitely have caused the same kind of debate and division that is unfolding over The Lord’s Prayer. Maybe it did, but we lived past it, and it is forgotten. Ratzinger was apparently concerned that Catholics were in need of clarification in our Profession of Faith. He felt that beginning The Creed with the words…WE BELIEVE IN ONE GOD…was “subversive.” That word “subversive” is pretty harsh, don’t you think? Talk about the need for clarification!
His point, as I understand it, was simply this: When we stress the “Oneness of God” we affirm monotheism, clearly defined at Deuteronomy 6:4…GOD IS ONE! At the same time, however, at least for many of the faithful, that image of ONE God undermines (subverts) what we Catholics know to be true and celebrate this Sunday: THE BLESSED TRINITY. And so, starting on the First Sunday of Advent 2011, we began our profession with the words…I BELIEVE IN GOD…continuing as always, by identifying and reverencing each Divine Person of the Trinity. The clarification was accomplished by simply dropping one word, and then moving forward by affirming the presence, power, and loving relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis’s forthcoming clarification to a single element of the Lord’s Prayer is more complicated and involves more than dropping a single word. This is not the time to discuss the implications or reasons behind the forthcoming change. However, because, at its core, this clarification invites reflection on the role of each Divine Person of The Blessed Trinity, it deserves mentioning today. As you learn more about this clarification, you will hopefully come to appreciate that it helps us better comprehend the role of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church’s mixed reaction is also appropriate to consider on this feast.
The Gospels do not specifically use the title “Blessed Trinity.” In fact, while the early Christians became slowly aware of the truth that Jesus Christ was, indeed, fully human and fully Divine, it took many more generations after that before arriving at universal understanding and appreciation for The Three-ness of our One God. Only after much painful debate and division was the Doctrine defined. This was the case, in spite of the fact the Gospels offer frequent and convincing evidence, throughout Jesus’s earthly mission, of the loving, working relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The debate ended, and the division that the Sacred Mystery of how one God can be Three Divine Persons has healed and is forgotten by everyone but Church historians. But what all Christians have always agreed on is that it is hard to understand. How can Three possibly be One? Maybe it would help if we were to drop some words from our vocabulary. Words such as conservative…orthodox…traditional…progressive…and liberal are divisive and subvert our ability to appreciate the nature of God. In revealing the Divine Self to humankind, there is only perfect peace and infinite love between the Three Persons. The idea of ego or self-promotion does not exist within the eternal relationship of The Trinity. There is only beautiful, unbroken harmony. In Godspeak, there are no words like “mine,” but only “ours.”
We were created to know, love, and serve God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were also created to be an image of our One true and living God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The arrogance of heated debate over any issue of faith or morals is not only divisive but is also subversive. Ego and pride undermine our ability to show the face of God to the world…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It is only when we stand shoulder to shoulder as humble seekers of spiritual wisdom that we will better understand the true nature of our One true and living God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…and then no further clarification will be required. In the meantime, when we sign ourselves, it might help to remember that we are not declaring ourselves to be conservative…orthodox…traditional…progressive…or liberal, but rather, adopted and much loved children of the One God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…Amen!
Eternal rest for Sr. Elizabeth Picken, a theologian who explored the mystery of God as a humble seeker of spiritual wisdom. On Pentecost Sunday, all of her questions were answered and no further clarification is necessary.