Man is created in the image and likeness of God – a tripersonal God, a God who gives life, a God who is Love.
If I had a dollar for every priest who could start his Trinity Sunday sermon with, “This is a mystery,” I would be a rich man. The Holy Trinity is a mystery, but that doesn’t mean it lacks meaning for us. But I think it was the German theologian Karl Rahner who once observed that if the Holy Trinity were to disappear, most Catholics wouldn’t even notice it.
Well, they should.
What does the Trinity have to tell us?
The Trinity is a communio personarum, a “communion of persons”. In God, the problem of unity and diversity is overcome in a way that man will never reach: one deity, but three people.
Amidst all the sophisticated distinctions of Trinitarian and Christological theology, the mystery of “begetting” and “processions” can be summed up in a few words: God loves. God loves with the fullness of his Being. And because love necessarily involves another, the love of God gives life: the Father gives life to the Son, who is as truly and eternally and perfectly God as the Father. And the Son, object of the Father’s love, loves eternally, so that where their loves meet there proceeds the Spirit, who proceeds from the love of the “Father and of the Son”.
The love of God is always open to life, is always life-giving. God’s openness to life is not a theoretical positive thought. It is fertile. It is invigorating. It gives rise to People.
And who is the man? Man is the “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:28). Man is established in the image and likeness of God– a tri-Personal God, a life-giving God, a God of Love.
As Saint John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortium: “God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal communion of love. By creating the human race in his own image and by keeping it continually in being, God has inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and therefore the capacity and the responsibility, of love and communion. . Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. God created us “through love and for love ”(emphasis added).
God does not have have to create us. Love, of course, demands an answer, but the answer has already taken place, in the Trinity. The Father’s Love has a perfect response in the Son, and their Love for one another has a perfect response in the Holy Spirit.
But love has this impulse of expansion, of generativity, of creativity. And so God created, not because He had to, but because he selected to: “all things, visible and invisible”.
But He also chose to create a creature in His Picture: man.
So what does this say about the way in which the man is to love, in particular the way in which he participates most directly in the formation of a communion of people – through sexual intercourse, which can give birth to people?
Humanae vitae answered this question almost 51 years ago: human love should be “human, total, faithful and exclusive, and fertile”. It is “human” because it must be what man is: body and soul, one foot in the material world, one foot in the spiritual. And, as the late William May used to note, just as Jesus is “begotten, not made,” so the human child should come into the world as an expression of “human” (that is, , spiritual and bodily) union, and not laboratory technique (IVF, GPA, artificial insemination). Human love must be “total”, a complete gift of self, like God himself. He must be “faithful and exclusive”, that is to say personally exclusive (rejecting polygamy and polyandry) and personally faithful (rejecting divorce as incompatible with indissolubility). And it must be “fertile”, that is, open to giving life, just as God is always open to giving life.
Moreover, as Saint John Paul II also noted, citing Ephesians 3:15, all fatherhood is from God. God is the source of life, and any ability to give life is participation in his life. Moreover, as Jean-Paul noted, while intercourse has biological consequences – we are, after all, biological creatures, not angels trapped in matter –only God can create a soul. So every act of fertile sex is inherently a trio: the cooperation of a man and a woman with God who blesses and consecrates their love with the life which comes from his hand, from the Father “from whom every heavenly family and on earth takes its name. God has been involved with man from the beginning: as Yahweh reminded various prophets (Isaiah 44:24; Jeremiah 1: 5), he knew you in his mother’s womb.
So, as you reflect on Trinity Sunday, do not imagine that this holiday is an intellectual exercise of little importance to you. He certainly has a lot to say about human life and love – if we’re prepared to learn from it.
All opinions expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.