Homily Preached at Vespers of Trinity Sunday
Cathedral of the Holy Family
30 May 2009
The First Half of the Liturgical Year
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity crowns the first half of the liturgical Year, those seasons and feasts that stretch from the First Sunday of Advent to the end of the Octave of Pentecost. Unlike the other great festivals of the year, Trinity Sunday does not commemorate any particular event; it focuses, rather, on the Mystery of God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — that pervades and illumines all of the seasons and feasts that we lived out thus far. Today’s festival, then, is set like a seal on the completed cycle of the holy mysteries that, since the First Sunday of Advent, the sacred liturgy has unveiled before our eyes.
Admiration and Praise
You will have noticed, perhaps, that the antiphons in today’s Divine Office do not recall historical events in Our Lord’s life, nor are most of them drawn directly from Sacred Scripture. Instead they resemble spontaneous exclamations of admiration, little poems full of wonder, cries of praise and of thanksgiving. They evoke the atmosphere of the heavenly liturgy.
The Church Lifted Up to Heaven
Today, through the antiphons of the Hours, and now at the hour of the evening sacrifice, the Church is lifted up to heaven. “After this,” says Saint John, “I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door” (Ap 4:1).
Holy, Holy, Holy
What does Saint John hear? What do we hear? What does Mother Church give us to sing? Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Ap 4:8).
The Advent and Christmas cycle revealed to us the Divine Person of the Father. In what way do Advent and Christmas reveal the Person of the Father? The Son came into the world sent by the Father. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:16-17).
Thou Art My Son
In coming into the world, the Son immediately addressed His Father. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells that when Christ came into the world, that is to say, at the very moment of His entrance into the sanctuary of the Virgin’s womb, He said: “Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God, as it is written of Me in the roll of the book” (Heb 10:7).
And in confirmation of all of this, the Christmas Mass at Midnight begins with the voice of the Son singing to us of His Father, the Father from Whom He is eternally begotten: Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu; ego hodie genui te, “The Lord,” He sings (referring to His Father), “said to me, ‘Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee'” (Ps 2:7).
This is the great mystery of the Advent and Christmas cycle: the revelation of the Father by the Word Made Flesh. “He who receives me,” says Jesus, “receives Him who sent Me,” (Jn 13:20), that is, the Eternal Father. And again, to the Apostle Philip He says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” This, then, is the essential grace of Advent and Christmastide: the coming of the Son to reveal the Father! “For no one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (Jn 1:18).
Moving through the year, we discover that the cycles of Lent and Passiontide and Paschaltide reveal the Divine Person of the Son: and this, because no one can come to knowledge of Jesus Christ apart from His Cross and Resurrection. “I have decided,” says Saint Paul, “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 1:2). The messianic identity of Jesus and the meaning of His mission in the world cannot be understood apart from the Cross. “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8).
In the Light of the Cross
Again and again, in the darkest hours of Holy Week, the Church sings of the knowledge of Jesus Christ that has come to her through the contemplation of the Cross: Christus factus es pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis, “Christ became obedient for us unto death, even death on a Cross; therefore has God highly exalted Him and given Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:8-11). Thus do the seasons of Lent and Passiontide and Paschaltide reveal the Son, drawing us to His pierced side, and filling our eyes with the radiance of His Holy Face.
The Holy Ghost
After the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostolic College, together with the Mother of Jesus and the other holy women and disciples, obeyed the Lord’s final injunction by returning to Jerusalem to await the promised outpouring of the Holy Ghost. They assembled and, in some way, cloistered themselves away in the Upper Room, the Cenacle wherein Jesus had given them the adorable mysteries of His Body and Blood, and established the New Priesthood of the New Covenant. There, in an atmosphere of profound silence and anticipation, Our Blessed Lady communicated the prayer of her Immaculate Heart to the Apostles and to the nucleus of the Church gathered around them. It was this grace of Mary’s prayer communicated to the Church that drew down the spectacular inbreaking of the Holy Ghost in a mighty wind and in the tongues of fire that rested over each head. It was Our Blessed Lady’s prayer communicated to those around her in the Cenacle that gave birth to the missionary Church in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Evidence of the Divine Sanctifier
Pentecost, the Fiftieth Day, and the eight days that follow it — the traditional Octave of Pentecost — open yet another cycle of the liturgical year, that of the Third Divine Person, the Holy Ghost. This final cycle is prolonged and developed in the feasts of the Mother of God and of the saints. The rest of the year will, in fact, be filled with the feasts of the saints, displaying the ongoing work of Holy Ghost, the Divine Sanctifier, in the Church. If, then, you want evidence of the Holy Ghost, look to the saints!
Having received the revelation of the Father through the mysteries of Advent and Christmastide; having received the revelation of the Son through the mysteries of Lent, Passiontide, and Easter; and having received the revelation of the Holy Ghost in the storm of glory that broke over Jerusalem on the Fiftieth Day at the Third Hour, today the Bride of Christ, the Church, is caught up in wonder. Mother Church, (and all of us with her, for we are her children, and her prayer is ours) breaks into cries of jubilation, praise, and thanksgiving to the adorable and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
This we will do in just a few moments, at the high point of the Church’s sacrificium vespertinum, the evening sacrifice: for the Magnificat Antiphon will place a song of glory and of wonder on our lips and in our hearts: “Holy and undivided Trinity, with our whole heart, and with our mouth, we confess Thee, praise and bless Thee. To Thee be glory forever.”