The Most Holy Trinity [B]
Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40 + Romans 8:14-17 + Matthew 28:16-20
May 30, 2021
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God ….
A well-written biography fascinates. The narrative of a subject’s life—the events surrounding the person, as well as the choices which the person makes amidst those events—captures the imagination. The individual person’s choices are windows into the person’s inner life: the person’s mind, heart and soul.
Something similar is true regarding the Most Blessed Trinity. Theologians describe the Trinity by means of two different terms. One is called the “economic Trinity”. The word “economic” refers in this case not to money, but to works performed, as in the phrase “home economics”. So the “economic Trinity” is the Blessed Trinity described in terms of works performed “outside” the Trinity.
In other words, the “economy” of the Trinity is those works that the Trinity never had to carry out, but nevertheless freely chose to carry out. The Trinity carried out these works simply out of love. These works chiefly fall into two groups: creation and salvation. The work of creation concerns every created thing in the universe, visible and invisible. The work of salvation solely concerns mankind, and includes man’s redemption and sanctification.
The Trinity’s works of creation and salvation serve as windows into the inner life of the Trinity. This inner life is called the “immanent Trinity”. This inner life of God is the very essence of the Trinity. While the works of the “economic Trinity” are “exterior” to God, and therefore never had to be carried out, the “immanent Trinity” is God’s essential Being throughout eternity: as He was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
On this Sunday’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we can reflect on God’s works of creation and salvation as a way of peering into His inner life. It’s fitting that the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity on the Sunday after Pentecost. The two solemnities stand in a certain contrast to other. Pentecost celebrates the culmination of the Trinity’s “economy of salvation”, while the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity peers into the inner life of the “immanent Trinity”. Consider further the connection between the “economic Trinity” and the “immanent Trinity”, and how the former illuminates the latter.
The beauty of creation inspires poets and mountain climbers, biologists and physicists to see the works of creation in a transcendent way. In other words, the beauty of the works of creation points our attention to “where” they came from. For believers, this reflective act of transcendence leads beyond those particular works, and also beyond the “how” of creation, all the way back to God Himself.
Chief among the visible works of God’s creation is the human being. It’s little wonder that first-time parents draw closer to God as they stand in awe of the innocence, beauty, and dignity of a single, tiny human life. Throughout the Church’s history, the greatest teachers of the Catholic Faith have reflected on how man—male and female—is created in the image of God. This image is seen especially in how man’s intellect and will operate. Although every animal has an intellect and a will, allowing it to reason and make choices, the human intellect and will are different because they are capable of self-transcendence. The human intellect can map the cosmos and the human will can construct an edifice to last a millennium.
Yet while the works of creation reveal God’s inner life in a myriad of ways, the Trinity’s work of salvation does so even more powerfully. In the order of salvation history, this work includes both redemption and sanctification.
In the fullness of time God revealed Himself as a Trinity of Persons when He established His new and everlasting Covenant through the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. In this singular act of self-sacrifice—which Jesus offered fully through His human intellect and will, which is to say, knowingly and freely—Jesus gave up His divine and human life for the sake of His Bride, the Church. Nonetheless, the Sacrifice of the Cross is not only the work of God the Son. It is is a Trinitarian sacrifice, made at the initiative of God the Father and through the Power of God the Holy Spirit, who is the love of the Father and the Son for each other.