This Sunday is the feast of the Trinity. Below is a reflection on this feast by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pope.
“Why do Christians believe in the Trinity? It is hard enough to believe that God exists without having to add the puzzle about God being “one and three.”
There are some today who would not be upset if we dropped the Trinity. For one thing, they would say, it would help dialogue with the Jews and Muslims, who profess faith in a God who is strictly one. The answer is that Christians believe God is triune because they believe God is love! If God is love, then he must love someone. There is no such thing as love of nothing, a love that is not directed at anyone. So we ask: Who is it that God loves so that he is defined as love?
A first answer must be that God loves us! But men have only existed for a few million years. Who did God love before that? God could not have begun to love at a certain point in time because God cannot change. Another answer might be that before he loved us, he loved the cosmos, the universe. But the universe has only existed for a few billion years. Who did God love before that so that he was defined as love? We cannot say that God loved himself because self-love is not love, but egoism, or, as the psychologists say, narcissism.
How does Christian revelation answer this question? God is love in himself, before time, because there is eternally in him a Son, the Word, whom he loves from an infinite love which is the Holy Spirit. In every love there are always three realities or subjects: one who loves, one who is loved and the love that unites them. Where God is understood as absolute power, there is no need for there to be more than one person, for power can be exercised quite well by one person. But if God is understood as absolute love, then it cannot be this way.
The contemplation of the Trinity can have an important impact on our human life. The life of the Trinity is a mystery of relation…We know that happiness and unhappiness on earth depend in large part upon the quality of our relationships. The Trinity reveals the secret to good relationships. Love, in its different forms, is what makes relationships beautiful, free and gratifying. Here we see how important it is that God can be seen primarily as love and not as power; love gives, power dominates. That which poisons a relationship is the will to dominate another person, to possess or use that person instead of welcoming and giving ourselves to him or her…”