Years ago, a priest gave a homily which consisted of 17 words. “Today is Trinity Sunday, the Trinity is a great mystery, and that’s all I have to say.” I was shocked, albeit a bit happy because this priest usually gave pretty bad homilies. I was also left with a thought, “Come on, you can say a bit more, can’t you?”
He was correct in saying the Trinity is a great mystery. Father, Son and Spirit, equal in majesty and glory but one God. At first glance, a Triune God seems far removed from our experience and our capacity to understand it.
But we should not be too distraught; not being able to fully understand or articulate the reality does not mean that our belief is absurd. The image is of one God in three persons, not one God in one person. We must grapple with the mystery because we believe we are created in the image of God. Trying to understand, at least in a rudimentary way, reveals to some degree, who we are as human persons.
What is the Trinity?
To help us, the writings of St. Richard of St. Victor, a twelfth century theologian, can bring some light to the subject. Richard sees the interpersonal realty of the Trinity in the language of love. He postulates that the Trinity is a supreme and perfect reality, a reality of pure love and happiness. He believes that there is nothing better, nor more perfect than love. He later describes the love of the Trinity not as a self -love, but a love that transcends each of the persons of the Trinity. It is only in this “going out of oneself” can there be true love, whether the love is God’s or mortal.
Next, Richard concludes that in order for love to be perfect, the person who is the recipient of that self-transcending love must be of equal dignity. Each of the three persons of the Trinity is equal in dignity.
Richard concludes his argument by stating that in order for there to be true happiness, a person needs someone to love and that love must be reciprocating. So, the Father and the Son who are equal persons, love each other and the bond of love between the two, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must be equal in dignity also in order to love the Father and the Son in a reciprocating way, proving the Holy Spirit is an equal and most importantly a divine person. From the circle of love, pure happiness arises. A tiny glimpse into the reality of a Triune God by St. Richard enables one to see how it is possible for three persons can be only one God.
Having crossed the hurdle of three persons in one God, we can begin to ask what difference it makes? It is important because we can begin to understand more precisely what it means to be created in the image of God.
Perhaps, the best way to articulate the reality is looking at our human desires and which of them is are the most important. Beyond a doubt, love and happiness are the ultimate desires of every human being.
By being created in the image a human being models God by the very fact creation is a result of God’s love and happiness. The happiness human beings desire is divine like, not emotional or based upon an event or occurrence. It is a happiness residing deep in the soul and is fed by our reciprocating love with God and one another. It is a happiness which blossoms from our selflessness and it is a happiness in anticipation to life eternal with the source of all love and happiness—The Triune God.