To know the spectacular full experience of God

“Let me remember you, let me understand you, let me love you.” These are the words of St. Augustine, words from the prayer he prayed at the end of that great work of theology, “De Trinitate.” He ended that huge, speculative tome in prayer, which, of course, was only appropriate. A real theologian, you see, he knew what his limits were.

He wanted desperately, he said, “to see intellectually what I have believed,” but he knew there was more to it than even he could grasp. He had to beg God to see: “Let me remember you, let me understand you, let me love you.” That’s what that prayer is about — begging before the mystery of the Trinity. And really, I don’t know, I share these words with you simply because I think that’s just good advice as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, that we stand this Sunday before the mystery, that the best thing to do is pray — to remember, to understand, to love.

May 26 – The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Dt 4:32-34, 39-40

Ps 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22

Rom 8:14-17

Mt 28:16-20

But we needn’t get too esoteric. In one sense the Church’s belief in the Holy Trinity is simple and quite easy to understand. Rooted in Hebrew and Pauline truth, we Christians are monotheists; the Lord our God is indeed one (cf. Dt 6:4; 1 Cor 8:6). However, from our faith and experience of Jesus, we believe that whatever we say about the Holy One of Israel, we must also say about Jesus. “The Father and I are one,” Jesus said in John 10:30. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” he also said (Jn 14:9). But we also believe that the Spirit that Jesus talked about in John’s Gospel — the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 16:13), the gift of both the Father and the Son — is also God. That’s what the earliest Christians meant by using the word Trinitas; they were simply referring to the experience of God in light of revelation. To encounter God is to encounter him as Father, Son, Spirit. This simply is what biblical Christianity is; it’s Trinitarian. Again, this isn’t all that hard to grasp. It’s simply Scripture. It’s just good theology.

Encountering the reality of the Trinity

But St. Augustine didn’t pray to good theology. He wasn’t praying to dogma. “Let me remember you, let me understand you, let me love you.” He was praying not to an idea but to the Trinitarian God. Now the point is subtle but critically important. The Trinity is not just a theological concept, a dogma worth grasping as best you can; the Trinity as dogma that holds us in place to experience the “Trinity of eternal glory.” The dogma of the Trinity helps us encounter the reality of the Trinity. Which, of course, is why orthodox theology matters, good worship too. Which is also why if you’re not in a Christian community that professes the Trinitarian faith or that suggests none it really matters, you should probably find another church — a Christian church, Trinitarian and Catholic.

Because to experience God as Trinity is to experience God fully. It’s to stand before God in the fullness of faith. It’s to believe in Jesus, “consubstantial with the Father,” and to receive the Holy Spirit as it’s poured into the heart (cf. Rom 5:5). And then in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s to cry “Abba, Father!” Because, saved and enlightened by the Trinitarian God, we become children of God — reborn, glorified (cf. Rom 8:15-16).

So, how should we lean into Trinity Sunday? First, we should give thanks that our Catholic faith is simply and thoroughly biblical. It is indeed, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (No. 234). What we celebrate is the pure truth of the Scripture, and we should indeed do our best to understand it, to preach it and proclaim it.

But second, we should remember that we do not merely celebrate theology, what we’ve learned and know; rather, theology holds us still to encounter God. Theology guides the soul to the object of its love — the Trinitarian God. Which is why St. Augustine prayed, as he did, at the end of “De Trinitate.” “Let me remember you, let me understand you, let me love you.” Because he was about to encounter the God he’d been so long seeking, the same God we seek. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. 

This post To know the spectacular full experience of God appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

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