SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY – YEAR C
When St. Augustine wrote about the Mystery that we celebrate today, the Mystery of the One God in Three Divine Persons, he often used the phrase “vestigia Trinitatis.” That is Latin for “footprints of the Trinity.” It is a delightful metaphor, and it refers to Augustine’s conviction that God has left unmistakable clues to his Triune nature embedded in creation. Most especially, Augustine loved to point out aspects or qualities of our humanity that, he said, are evidence of the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of the One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Today, on Trinity Sunday, the Scriptures describe traits embedded in human nature across all boundaries of culture, continent, religious tradition, and time. They are tell-tale footprints of the Trinitarian God; and – fittingly – there are three of them: the urge to create, delight in giving and receiving gifts, and insatiable curiosity.
The fact is that everyone wants to make something. It can be as grand as Notre Dame Cathedral or Michelangelo’s Pieta; or it can be as simple as a homemade Valentine. And that thrill of creation starts very soon after birth. On Tuesday mornings. as I walk through the first-floor hall of our school to teach the First Communion class, I take a look into the classrooms of the nursery and pre-kindergarten children. They are already hard at work before the first bell with colored blocks and Legos and tinker toys or with paper and crayons and scissors. They are making things which they enthusiastically and joyfully show to any visitor. St. Augustine would be thrilled. Those little ones are innocently demonstrating the innate, irresistible urge to be creative; and – along with it – the deep joy that creation brings.
“When the Lord established the heavens, I was there, when he fixed the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him as his craftsman, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of the earth; and I found delight…” The Wisdom of God, whom we understand to be the Holy Spirit, is right there alongside the Father as he goes about his work. And, although it is not stated here, St. Paul will later explain that the pattern the Father has in mind as he fixes foundations and limits seas is really Jesus, the Word, the Logos, through whom and for whom all things exist.
Yes. God saw that it was all very good. What’s more, he is having fun creating it and even more fun watching his creatures enjoy what he is doing. And we cannot resist imitating his ecstatic self-revelation in the creative process.
The most cherished gifts we receive are precisely the drawings, poems, songs, Valentines, statuary that have been made by the hands of people we love. What grandparent would not value a hand-drawn birthday card more even than the Mona Lisa, itself? We love gifts. We love receiving them, we love making them and wrapping them. We love giving them and seeing the delight in the face of the recipient. We find occasion upon occasion to give gifts. And why? Why should we find our greatest thrills in sacrificing our time, our talent, our treasure to bring a smile to a human face and a sincere, enthusiastic ‘Thank you?’ It is because we are created in the image of the Triune God whose very nature is giving and receiving. When you look at a news story on television about a kidney donor, a first responder, a surgeon, a beloved teacher or coach, as you watch a heart-felt embrace, you are seeing more than God’s footprint. You are looking through a window into the inner life of God.
St. Paul knew that the model for all of this joy in giving and receiving is the gift of redemptive grace. He, himself, had been swept off his feet by that gift on the road to Damascus, and he could never stop talking and writing about it. Because of the love of God, he could even boast of his afflictions. “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Once we get a taste of that Trinitarian love, that unlimited, unceasing outpouring of absolute, unconditional love, we are compelled to join in the thrill of giving and receiving gifts. The next time you receive some special present, look at the wrapping carefully; you are likely to see a footprint, a vestigium Trinitatis.
Why do we do crossword puzzles? Why do we watch Jeopardy? Why do we listen to gossip? Why do we wonder how we ever lived without Google? Our minds have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Jesus knew that when he said at the Last Supper, I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
And the Spirit will not be doing this all by himself. “He will take what is mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is mine.”
The stunning advances in medical treatments, the mind-goggling exploration of outer-space with its quarks and black holes, the eagerness of young graduates to advance to higher studies, the innocent persistence of a child who just will not stop asking, “But why?” – they are all pulling us irresistibly toward knowing even as we are known. And each step we take into enlightenment leaves a double footprint, ours and the Holy Trinity’s
But now we take a few steps in the direction of the altar where we will be caught up most powerfully and completely into the encounter with the living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.