The sign that accompanies the first prayer that Catholics learn, namely, In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is no meaningless gesturing. It’s an intentional expression of what lies at the root of our existence: that we live and move and have our being under the abiding presence of the Trinity. The proper way to make this sign is: With our left hand resting below our chest, we lock together our right thumb, index and middle fingers (leaving the ring and little finger to rest on our palm). By joining these three fingers, we already form a corpus that mimic the Trinity. With these, we touch our forehead to show that in it is the imprint of our personhood, where God put His distinct mark of ownership. It is through our head/face that we become present and our identity is externalized. We as well give an assent of faith to the Father, the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Artist, Creator, and Ruler of all things, visible and invisible—as we say in the Creed. Next, with those fingertips we touch the base of our heart, the center and citadel of God’s love, while saying, “And of the Son.” The Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, begotten, not made, is the true face of God to the world and the Lover par-excellence. He is the One whom, as John 3:16 says, God sent out of the abundance of His love to be our savior. And finally, the fingertips move from the heart to the left shoulder crisscrossing the heart to rest on the right shoulder, while we say, “And of the Holy Spirit.” The movement to the shoulders kicks on our propellers which fan to flame our wings of prayer, lifting our faith and love to flight of active service, supported by the unction (oil) of the Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. At a final interlocking of the hands, we say, “Amen”—So be it. In union with the Trinity, we’re stabilized; reach altitude.
In the prayer illustrated, we invoke the Trinity whose feast we celebrate today. The Trinity is also invoked at other times when we pray and are blessed with the gifts of heaven. In the Name of the Trinity we are baptized and have our sins forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and before we close our eyes in death, the Trinity is implored on us to bring us to share in the bond of love that unites the Three Persons in God—existentially distinct, yet indivisible in substance. I admit that this description is abstract, yet it’s not unknowable. The Trinity is abstract to the degree that algebra is beyond the grasp of kindergarteners or calculus beyond the grasp of an elementary school child. Heavenly mysteries are similarly beyond our ability to grasp “fully.” It is only an unredeemed heart and mind which finds the Trinity unintelligible—like the fool who says in his heart: there is no God above (Psalm 14:1).
The Trinity is the central mystery of our faith in God. Hence, “we believe in one God...Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...[whom] we worship and confess: not one God in such a way as to be solitary, nor the same in such wise that he himself is Father to himself and he himself is Son to himself; but the Father is he who begot, and the Son is he who is begotten; the Holy Spirit in truth is neither begotten nor unbegotten, neither created nor made, but proceeds from the Father and the Son, coeternal and coequal and cooperator with the Father and the Son” (Denzinger). This mystery explains that God the Father is the Creator God, God the Son is the same God who became our Redeemer, and God the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. In the Trinity is a mutual interpenetration of hypostasis (persons); a perfect unity of persons which God desires for all His children.
A unified family consists of father, mother and child(ren). A statue of the Holy Family with the image of the child ripped off is no longer a Holy Family statue. Divisions, discord and acrimony hurt the inner life of the Trinity. Rooted in God, we’re invited to mindfully seek harmony, love with all our heart, and serve each other with hands unsullied by unholy desire, envy and greed.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo