There is an endearing legend that describes St. Augustine walking along the shore of the sea one day. He was lost in thought and in deep contemplation of the Holy Trinity. This was the hardest of Christian doctrines to explain and he was bound and determined to do it. As he walked along the shore, he caught sight of a little boy up ahead. Augustine watched a bit perplexed as the boy ran back and forth from the sea to a small hole on the beach that he had apparently dug. The boy had a seashell in his hands with which he was carrying water from the sea and pouring it into the little hole. After a time of watching him do this over and over again, Augustine approached him and said “My boy, what are you doing?” He replied with a smile “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole!” Looking at the small hole and then back at the boy he said “But that is impossible, my dear child. The hole cannot contain all that water. It is too small.” The boy said in reply, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do — comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small mind!” Surprised by such an answer, Augustine turned and gazed out at the sea for a brief moment, when he had turned back to the boy, he had vanished from sight.
This Sunday we celebrate the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I like to call it God Sunday. The whole of the Easter Season is a continuous celebration of God’s saving action in the world. As we saw last week, Easter ends with the Feast of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who dwells within us, and who allows the saving mission of Jesus to be made manifest to us and to take root in our hearts. While this mission and revelation from God can help us to understand, there is a vast and infinite depth to the three persons in the Godhead that we cannot grasp with our limited human minds. St. Augustine did give it his best attempt. One of the ways that I find he succeeds in explaining the inner life of the Holy Trinity is as a relationship of love. We know that humanity was made in God’s image. In Genesis, chapter 1, God says “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness …God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27). It is true, therefore, that each individual is made in God’s image, and we can discover elements of who God is within humanity. Yet the scriptures go further to say “in the image of God he created them.” This reveals that the relationship between man and woman is also an image of God. The relationship is one of love and, similar to the human family relationship, the Trinity is a union of love. St. Augustine says there are three elements that must be present in order for love to be present. You first must have the one who loves, then, you need an object for this person to love. So there is the first element of love that is the lover, then the second part is the beloved. The third element is the actual love between the two of them. This becomes very clear in the life of a family. The love of the man for his wife, i.e. the lover and the beloved, often bears fruit and the love between them becomes tangible in another person, usually we call them children. While this is not a full image, it does help us get a glimpse into the life of love that God has. The Father is the one who loves, the Son is the beloved and the Holy Spirit is the eternal love that is between them. It is this perfect, eternal, harmonious communion of love that we are made to participate in. Eternity in Heaven will be a never-ending plummet into the depths, the greatness, and the vastness of God.
-Fr. Peter Wigton