In the heart of the Trinity

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9th in a series of short homilies on the Mass

In my last homily in this series, we saw that, in the Mass, we join with all the saints and angels in heaven, and lead all humanity and all creation back to the Father. All of heaven and earth united: what a place to be! And yet, the Mass takes us somewhere even deeper than that.

For our Lord Jesus Christ saves us by bringing us into himself: uniting us with him, joining us to him, making us like him. This is why St. Paul so often speaks of being “in Christ”; this is why he wrote, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) And so, in the Mass, he brings us to the deepest place possible: to the heart of the Trinity.

That God is a Trinity of Persons—three distinct divine Persons, one divine nature—is the distinctive Christian doctrine. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: each divine Person is true God, coequal and coeternal. These three Persons are distinct, but they are not different. They don’t have different personality traits, or different abilities; they don’t act in opposition to each other or even separately. What distinguishes them from one another, the Catechism tells us (255), is found solely in the relationships which relate them to one another in love. (254) It is the Father who generates, who begets; the Son who is begotten; and the Holy Spirit who proceeds, who is breathed forth by the Father and the Son. Fr. Jean Corbon has written (The Wellspring of Worship, p. 30):

In the communion of the Blessed Trinity no person is named for himself… In the communion of the living God, the mystery of each person is to be for the other…

So what then does it mean to be the Son? What is it that characterizes the Son as Son?

Pope John Paul II wrote (Vita Consecrata, 16) that the Son “receives everything from the Father, and gives everything back to the Father in love.” What does that mean? Consider that everything we have ever encountered—all that is true, all that is good, all that is beautiful—all life, all love, all motion and energy—all of this ultimately finds its source in the Father. He is life and love and creativity beyond what we can possibly imagine. The Father generates the Son, who is everything that the Father is; and the Son “receives everything from the Father, and gives everything back to the Father in love.”

Can you picture that?—the infinite love from all eternity between the Father and the Son, beautiful and glorious?

And when the Son became incarnate as Jesus Christ, true God and true man, he was living out the same Sonship, this same relationship that makes the Son the Son—as he lived his earthly life in total obedience and love, as he completed this sacrifice when he laid down his life upon the cross.

So when Christ makes this perfect sacrifice present upon the altar, and the priest stands there holding the Son in his hands, offering himself to the Father—do you know where we are? We are right in the presence of the Holy Trinity!

But that’s not all. For we have already seen that Christ wants us to do the same—to offer ourselves completely to the Father—that is, to enter into that relationship of Sonship that makes the Son the Son. In baptism, he adopted us as sons and daughters of the Father; and he wants us to live out that same sonship—through him and with him and in him—in the Mass and every day of our lives.

So when the Holy Spirit draws each of you here, to Mass, and draws you forward in your heart to place yourself with Christ upon this altar, offering yourself as sacrificial gift as the adopted son or daughter that you are, “receiving everything from the Father, and giving everything back to the Father in love”—do you know where we are? In the heart of the Holy Trinity!

St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become God.” Christ instituted the Mass, to make present his perfect sacrifice, so that we might truly enter into his Sonship—so that what is his by nature we might share in by grace. It doesn’t get any deeper than that.

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