Saint Brigid Religious Education
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West Hartford, CT 06110
Trinity Sunday ~ Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, officially "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity," is one of
the few feasts of the Christian Year that celebrates a reality and
doctrine rather than an event or person. On Trinity Sunday we remember
and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Trinity Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, and lasts only
one day, which is symbolic of the unity of the Trinity.
The Trinity is one of the most fascinating and controversial Christian
dogmas. The Trinity is a mystery. By mystery the Church does not mean a
riddle, but rather the Trinity is a reality above our human
comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know
through worship, symbol, and faith. It has been said that mystery is not
a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.
The Trinity is best described in the Nicene Creed. Essentially the
Trinity is the belief that God is one in essence, but distinct in
person. Don't let the word "person" fool you. The persons of the Trinity
are three human persons. Therefore we believe that the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit are somehow distinct from one another (not divided
though), yet completely united in will and essence. How can this be?
Well, think of the sight of two eyes. The eyes are distinct, yet one and
undivided in their sight.
The Son is said to be eternally begotten of the Father, while the Holy
Spirit is said to proceed from the Father through the Son. Each member
of the Trinity interpenetrates one another, and each has distinct roles
in creation and redemption, which is called the Divine economy. For
instance, God the Father created the world through the Son and the Holy
Spirit hovered over the waters at creation.
Nicene definition of the Trinity developed over time, based on Scripture
and Tradition. The Scriptures call the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit "God," yet the three are also clearly distinct. The Church
has been celebrating the Trinity in its life and worship since the
earliest days of the Church. The earliest known liturgies (including
those contained in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus) include many
references to the persons of the Trinity, including prayers that end
Over time, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the Church reflected
on the implications of God's nature, and even began using the word
Trinity by the middle of the 2nd century to describe the relationship
between the Father, Son, and Spirit. When in the 4th century a presbyter
named Arius denied the Father and Son were both true God and co-eternal,
his bishop Alexander of Alexandria challenged him and deposed him.
Eventually the Arian controversy spread, and the emperor Constantine,
newly fascinated with Christianity, convened a council of bishops in AD
325 in Nicaea to deal with Arianism. It is there that the Church drew up
the beginnings of the current Nicene Creed. In the latter half of the
4th century the Church dealt with those who specifically denied the
divinity of the Holy Spirit, adding more text to the creed.
Nonetheless, there was no general feast of the Trinity in the early
Church. Over time, dioceses and churches began celebrating feasts of the
Trinity locally. Early dates of the localized feasts include the
first Sunday after Pentecost, or the first Sunday before Advent. Both
placements have symbolic value. The post-Pentecost date celebrates the
Trinity as the final celebration of the Church Year, after Christ's
resurrection, ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at
Pentecost. The pre-Advent date, no longer observed, began the Church
Year with the celebration of the Trinity, the source of all creation.
Both show the importance of the Trinity as the foundation, beginning and
end, of Christian belief and experience. Pope John XXII established the
feast day for universal observance in the Western Church in AD 1334 on
the present date.
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