Icon of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev

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FR. KEVIN VOGEL (9:17): Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity 2015. Reflects on the mystery of the Trinity using the icon by Russian artist Andrei Rublev.

In 1425 AD, Andrew Rublev, a Russian monk, painted an icon of the Trinity in which three angelic figures are seated around a small table, engaged in intimate conversation. On the table is a chalice, in the background is a tree.

The trio of figures and the tree are reminiscent of the visit which angelic messengers paid to Sarah and Abraham at the Oak of Mamre. As they enjoyed the generous welcome of Sarah and Abraham, the messengers announced the unexpected birth of Isaac (Genesis 18) whom Abraham would later be willing to sacrifice if God willed it (Genesis 22).

Henri Nouwen has suggested that Rublev intended this angelic appearance to prefigure the Divine visitation by which God sends the unexpected gift of His Son, who sacrifices himself for sin and gives new life through the Spirit.

Rublev wished that his icon would offer his fellow monks a way to keep their hearts centered on God, Father, Son and Spirit, despite the chaotic world of political unrest in which they lived. (Sanchez Archives).

View 28+ anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

Trinity Analogies

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Jon Oleksluk {3:50) – This video uses an analogy by C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” Part two deals with problem analogies and the historical background of the doctrine.

Since the Holy Trinity is a mystery, all these examples are only the shadows of the shadows of the Truth. The problem with using analogies to explain the Holy Trinity is that you always end up confessing some ancient heresy.

St. Patrick, the missionary patron saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.  The story goes that one day his friends asked Patrick to explain the Mystery of the Trinity.  He looked at the ground and saw shamrocks growing amid the grass at his feet.  He picked one up one of its trifoliate leaves and asked if it were one leaf or three.    Patrick’s friends couldn’t answer – the shamrock leaf looked like one but it clearly had three parts.  Patrick explained to them: “The mystery of the Holy Trinity – one God in Three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – is like this, but more complex and unintelligible.”

St. Cyril, the teacher of the Slavs, tried to explain the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity using sun as an example.    He said, “God the Father is that blazing sun. God the Son is its light and God the Holy Spirit is its heat — but there is only one sun. So, there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity but God is One and indivisible.”

St. John Maria Vianney used to explain Holy Trinity using lighted candles and roses on the altar and water in the cruets. “The flame has color, warmth and shape. But these are expressions of one flame. Similarly, the rose has color, fragrance and shape. But these are expressions of one reality, namely, rose. Water, steam and ice are three distinct expressions of one reality. In the same way one God revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”

St. John of Damascus, a great Eastern theologian of the eighth century, said we should think “of the Father as a root, the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance of these three is one.”  He also said, “Think of the Father as a Spring of Life, begetting the Son like a River and the Holy Ghost like a sea, for the spring, the river and the sea are all one nature.”

Renowned scientist Dr. Henry Morris. notes that the entire universe is Trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity. Matter = mass + energy + motion. Space = length + height + breadth. Time = past + present + future. Thus, the whole universe witnesses to the character of the God who made it (cf. Psalm 19:1).

Father Karl Rahner, SJ, The great 20th-century Catholic theologian, was supposedly asked once by a priest friend how he should explain the Holy Trinity when preaching. Father Rahner’s reply was simple: “Don’t!”

The mystery of the magnitude of the universe

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The universe has around 100–1000 billion galaxies. Our galaxy is called the Milky Way. The Milky Way contains 100–400 billion stars with their planets including the sun and its planets and our earth is one of its tiny planets. This means that our Sun is just one star among the hundreds of billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.  The diameter of the observable universe is about 93 billion light years, and a   light-year is a unit of length equal to 6 trillion miles. The number and size of galaxies and stars and planets in the universe remain mind-baffling mysteries in spite of all our latest astronomical discoveries and studies, and we have been able to send astronomers only to our earth’s sole natural satellite, the moon.

If the universe is so mysterious, there is no wonder why the nature of the Triune God who created it, remains a mystery and why we have to accept the mystery of the Triune God  as revealed by God Himself in the Holy Scripture!

The Mystery of man created by a mysterious Triune God

How complex and mind-boggling is our physical construction! Chemically, the body is unequalled for complexity. Each one of its 30 trillion cells is a mini chemical factory that performs about 10,000 chemical functions. With its 206 bones, 639 muscles, 4 million pain sensors in the skin, 750 million air sacs in the lungs, 16 million nerve cells and 30 trillion cells in total, the human body is remarkably designed for life.

And the brain! The human brain with the nervous system is the most complex arrangement of matter anywhere in the universe. One scientist estimated that our brain, on the average, processes over 10,000 thoughts and concepts each day.

Three billion DNA pairs in a fertilized egg (a child into whom God has already breathed an immortal, spiritual soul) control all human activities, 30,000 genes making 90,000 proteins in the body. Bill Bryson in his book,

A Short History of Nearly Everything, says it is a miracle that we even exist. Trillions of atoms come together for approximately 650,000 hours (74 years calculated as the average span of human life), and then begin to silently disassemble and go off to other things. There never was something like us before and there never will be something like us again.

But for 650,000 hours the miracle or mystery that is uniquely us, exists. One could spend years just dealing with the marvelous intricacies and majesty of God’s creation. We are, as the Psalmist states “fearfully and wonderfully made.” No wonder we cannot understand the mystery of the Triune God Who created us!

You see the Trinity, if you see love

There is a very old and much-repeated story about St. Augustine, one of the intellectual giants of the Church.  He was walking by the seashore one day, attempting to conceive of an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.  As he walked along, he saw a small boy on the beach, pouring seawater from a shell into a small hole in the sand.  “What are you doing, my child?” asked Augustine.  “I am emptying the sea into this hole,” the boy answered with an innocent smile.  “But that is impossible, my dear child,” said Augustine.  The boy stood up, looked straight into the eyes of Augustine and replied, “What you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of God with your small head – is even more impossible.”  Then he vanished.  The child was an angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson.

Later, Augustine wrote: “You see the Trinity, if you see love.”  According to him, the Father is the lover, the Son is the loved one and the Holy Spirit is the personification of the very act of loving. This means that we can understand something of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity more readily with the believing heart than with our feeble mind.

Evagrius of Pontus, a Greek monk of the 4th century who came from what is now Turkey in Asia and later lived out his vocation in Egypt, said: “God cannot be grasped by the mind. If God could be grasped, God would not be God.”

Human mystery confronting divine mystery

The story is told that Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of his close friends, Bernard Baruch, talked late into the night one evening at the White House. At last, President Roosevelt suggested that they go out into the Rose Garden and look at the stars before going to bed. They went out and looked into the sky for several minutes, peering at a nebula with thousands of stars. Then the President said, “All right, I think we feel small enough now to go in and go to sleep.”

The wonder of the power and wisdom of God puts things in perspective for us humans. Creation was not an accident, but the result of a Divine Plan; planets, stars, plants, birds, fish, and animals were all created by God. And the climax of God’s creation was humanity. (Fr. Kayala).

“You ask me a riddle?”

Richard, Cardinal Cushing (d. 11/2/1970; Archbishop of Boston, MA), told of an occasion when he was administering last rites to a man who had collapsed in a general store. Following his usual custom, he knelt by the man and asked, “Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?” The Cardinal said the man roused a little bit, opened an eye, looked at him and said, “Here I am, dying, and you ask me a riddle?”

Call them riddles. Call them Mysteries. There are things about life and Faith we do not understand, but I am not going to suggest that you resign your effort to understand.

“Bad things always come in threes”

An old adage warns, “Bad things always come in threes.” Have you found this true in your own experience? That bad things (and good things), like to happen in community, in bunches? You say: we invent this connection by suddenly realizing that we got a flat tire on the same day that a computer glitch devoured our hard drive, shortly after our last contact lens just slid down the drain. I say: there seems to be something significant about the power of three.

On this Sunday, “Trinity Sunday,” the Church celebrates the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, affirming the Truth that good things also come in threes. We recognize God as Creator (the Father), God as Redeemer (the Son), and God as Sanctifier (the Holy Spirit).

We don’t need to understand God to allow Him to take over our lives

Thomas Edison, the inventor, once remarked:

“We don’t know what water is. We don’t know what light is. We don’t know what electricity is. We don’t know what heat is. We have a lot of hypotheses about these things, but that is all. But we don’t let our ignorance about these things deprive us of their use.”

The truth of that statement is real. Most of us do not know how an electric light works, how a telephone or a TV works, but this does not prevent us from using them. Let us try to apply the same common sense to our Faith in the doctrine of the Trinity. (John Pichappily in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

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Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

INTRODUCTION: Today’s feast invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity, a doctrine enunciated by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and the greatest mystery of our Faith, namely, that there are Three Divine Persons, sharing the same Divine Nature in one God.     “There is one God, who has three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each Person is God, yet there is still only one God” (CCC #234, #253-256).

We have the Father Who is the Creator, the Son Who is the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit Who is the Sanctifier and the Counselor. The doctrine of Three Persons in one God, co-equal and co-eternal in Divinity yet distinct in Person, is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. Even the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. But the doctrine of the Trinity underlies all major Christian feasts, including Christmas, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost.

All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the Sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins, and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

Throughout the world, when Church bells ring three times a day, Christians are being invited to pray to God the Father (the Provider); God the Son (the Savior); and God the Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier), giving glory to the Triune God for the Incarnation of the Son and our Redemption through His suffering and death, as we pray the Angelus, or in the Easter Season, the Regina Coeli.

We bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, invoking the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit….” Today’s readings convey the fundamental mystery that the Triune God reaches out to people with love, seeking the deepest communion with them.

Frank Sheed’s explanation of the Holy Trinity: The great apologist Frank Sheed used to give a very interesting explanation of the Most Holy Trinity. He started by thinking about our own human nature. Each one of us exists, but since we are spiritual, we also have an idea of ourselves. We can think about ourselves, reflect on ourselves, and know ourselves. This is why human beings are the only animals on earth who write diaries.

That’s similar to what happens in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. God the Father is spiritual, able to know Himself. He has an Idea of Himself. But, since His knowledge is limitlessunlike ours, that Idea of Himself is perfect and perfectly complete. But to be perfect, the Idea, or the Word, has to share in God’s own existence; the Word actually has to be a Divine Person. And so, God the Father, from all eternity, knowing Himself, engenders the Son, the perfect Image of the Father. And then, of course, since both the Father and the Son are Infinitely Good and Beautiful, as soon as They know Each Other, They also love Each Other. Even we, when we think about ourselves, love ourselves. We want the best for ourselves. We are glad that we exist. But God’s Love, like his Knowledge, is limitless, Infinite, and so this Love, too, has to be Infinite and so intense and so full that it shares fully in the Divine existence; this Love is a Divine Person – the Holy Spirit.

This is the mystery we profess each week when we affirm our belief in the Son of God, who is “consubstantial [one in Being] with the Father, God from God, light from light true God from true God” and in the Holy Spirit, who “with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.” (E- Priest) — (Holy Trinity: Our God is far beyond the grasp of our intellect. All we can say is: God, the Father, our Father, is Omnipresent and so I live in Him because the universe exists in Him. The Son, Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us — and so He is always with me; I live with Him. The Holy Spirit is the One Who inspires us all from within us, and so The Holy Spirit lives in my heart. There is only one God.  We live in Him; He lives with us and He lives in us. Yahve – “I am Who am” — He is all (Joe Vempeny) –(The great 20th-century Catholic Theologian Father Karl Rahner, SJ, was supposedly asked once by a priest friend how he should explain the Holy Trinity when preaching. Father Rahner’s reply was simple: “Don’t!” The mystery we celebrate in today’s feast defies not only explanation but also comprehension (OSV)



First reading: Dt (4:32-34, 39-40) explained: Deuteronomy was written down much later than the time of Moses (ca. 1250 BC), during the Babylonian Captivity (587-539 BC). Internal corruption and external pressures had brought the Jewish people to the brink of extinction. Kings, priests, prophets, and Temple had all failed to hold them together. Those who produced the written document responded to this crisis by offering amplified explanations of the Mosaic legal traditions, in the hope of setting the Jews on a viable course for their future. Since the audience for the written presentation of Deuteronomy was having a very hard time holding on to its Faith and identity, the book’s reminder, that their ancestors had had to make the same struggle to achieve and maintain their strict belief in the one, true and invisible God, must have been encouraging. In today’s reading, Moses gives the people reasons to be proud of how they differ from their pagan neighbors. He asserts, in effect, “We have a better God Who gave us a better Law and we’re a better people than any of them There’s no other god like our God, the Only Real God, and no other Law like ours, and no other people like us, so shape up!”



Second Reading (Rom 8:14-17) explained: As a response to some who insisted that pagan converts to Christ had to practice the Jewish law, Saint Paul tries to get his audience to let themselves be saved by the grace of God, instead of trying to save themselves through their own unaided efforts through their observance of the Mosaic laws. He advises them to lead their lives “in the Spirit,” that is, to let God take over. This reading addresses some of the relations among Spirit, Father and Son, as we experience our relationship with God.



Today’s Gospel (Mt 28-16-20) tells us that, returning to the Father, Jesus completed his mission on earth.  But just before the Ascension, Jesus entrusted to his disciples the mission of preaching and teaching the Good News and evangelizing the whole world by bearing witness to Him through their lives. Jesus also ordered them to baptize the believers in the Name of the Holy Trinity: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Jn 16:19). In the descriptions of Christ after the Resurrection, we are given a hint of what life will be like in Heaven.  But it is in Jesus’ Ascension that we see him entering fully into the life and glory of God.  The prospect of sharing in that glory should be the driving force in our lives.

The development of the Trinitarian doctrine in the Church

The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is found in the Apostles’ Creed which has served both as the basis of instruction for catechumens and as the Baptismal confession of Faith since the second century.  Later, the Nicene Creed, originating at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), stated the doctrine more explicitly.  This creed was introduced into our Western liturgy by the regional council of Toledo in AD 589. God has revealed to us three separate functions that are attributed to the Three Persons.  He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of Creation, to God the Son the work of Redemption, and to God the Holy Spirit the work of Sanctification.  Our knowledge of God as Trinity is made possible by God, who has chosen to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As Father, God has brought forth the created universe, including our own being.  As the Father’s Only-begotten Incarnate Son, Jesus, God has made known One Who hears our cries, Who cares, Who counts the hairs on our head, and Who loves us so passionately that He became one of us in order to suffer for our sins, and even to die for us. As Spirit, God remains with us and within us.

The Triune God as seen in the Old Testament

Since Yahweh, the God of Israel, was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books give only indirect and passing references to the Trinity, and the Jewish rabbis never understood them as references to the Holy Trinity.    Genesis 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”    Genesis 18:2 describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the “Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.” In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language. “These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.

 Clear doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament

The Annunciation (Lk 1: 26-38), describes how God the Father sends the Archangel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that God the Holy Spirit, will “come upon” her, that “the power the Most High will overshadow” her, that the Son will be made flesh in her womb: “Therefore, the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

During the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:16-17), the Holy Spirit is shown descending on Jesus in the form of a Dove, while the Voice of God the Father is heard from the clouds, saying, “You are My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Lk 4:22).

John (Chapters 15 through 18) presents the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

d) In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commands them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Confer also Mt 28:19; Jn 10:30).

We need to respect ourselves and respect others.

Our living belief in the presence of the Triune God within us should help us to esteem ourselves as God’s holy dwelling place, to behave well in His holy presence, and to lead purer and holier lives, practicing acts of justice and charity.  This Triune Presence should also encourage us to respect and honor others as “Temples of the Holy Spirit.”

We need to be aware of God as the Source of our strength and courage

Our awareness and conviction of the presence of God within us give us the strength to face the manifold problems of life with Christian courage.  It was such a conviction that prompted the early Christian martyrs being taken to their execution to shout the heroic prayer of Faith from the Psalms: “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge ” (Ps 46:7,11).  

We need to see the Trinity as the model for our Christian families

We are created in love to be a community of loving persons, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One in Love. From the day of our Baptism, we have belonged to the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  How privileged we are to grow up in such a beautiful Family! Hence, let us turn to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in prayer every day.  We belong to the Family of the Triune God.  The love, unity, and joy in the relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be the supreme model of our relationships within our Christian families.  Our families become truly Christian when we live in a relationship of love with God and with others.

We are called to become more like the Triune God through all our relationships

We are made in God’s image and likeness.  Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only as one member of a relationship of three partners.  The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with all other people and in a vertical relationship with God.  In that way our life Trinitarian like that of God.  Modern society follows the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism and the resulting consumerism.  But the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt an “I-and-God-and-neighbor” principle:  “I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.”  Like God the Father, we are called upon to be productive and creative persons by contributing to the building up of the fabric of life and love in our family, our Church, our community, and our nation.  Like God the Son, we are called to a life of sacrificial love and service so that we may help Him to reconcile, to be peacemakers, to put back together that which has been broken, and to restore what has been shattered.  Like God the Holy Spirit, we are called, with His help, to uncover and teach Truth and to dispel ignorance. (Trinitarian spirituality:  “The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that it belongs to God’s very Nature to be committed to humanity and its history, that God’s Covenant with us is irrevocable, that God’s Face is immutably turned toward us in love, that God’s Presence to us is utterly reliable and constant…. Trinitarian spirituality is one of solidarity between and among persons. It is a way of living the Gospel attentive to the requirements of justice, understood as rightly ordered relationships between and among persons.” Dictionary of Spirituality)

St. Francis Xavier’s favorite prayer was: “Most Holy Trinity, Who live in me, I praise You, I worship You, I adore You, and I love You.”  May the Son lead us to the Father through the Spirit, to live with the Triune God forever and ever. Amen.


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