There are all kinds of stories of growing up Catholic but very few that focus on that core of the culture that is the Sign of the Cross. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” This Trinitarian invocation begins and ends almost every event, every ritual, every meal – whether it is a blessing pronounced by the Pope or the gesture we learn from our parents before we can talk.
For all of Catholicism’s lengthy tradition, its mantras and catchphrases, Trinity Sunday is the only Sunday that fails to attempt in words what is incomprehensible. The priest who has a sermon for each Sunday looks into his bag or online list of stock themes, works hard on the presentation, and raises the white flag of surrender as he steps into the pulpit. The standard disclaimer is “We really cannot understand the Trinity. It is a matter of faith.” After confusing those who are awake in the congregation with St. Patrick’s shamrock “three in one” or various other analogies, he repeats the opening disclaimer and makes a hasty retreat to the Nicene Creed, where we sleepwalk our way through beautiful Trinitarian poetry that we ignore out of repetition. “…Light from light, True God from True God, Begotten not made, One in Being with the Father…”
For those of us who graduated from Catholic schools and had a good review of the Trinitarian controversies of the first three centuries and the further travails of this teaching in Church history, the sense of incomprehensibility grows.
William Paul Young’s allegory, The Shack, presents a weekend encounter with the Holy Trinity by a deeply wounded and grieving father. It is a mystical healing encounter that shows us that our concept of God has more to do with us than with the Divine. As a work of fiction it is easier for us to comprehend than the abstractions of theology. The contemporary setting and the issue of why the innocent are slaughtered make this central Mystery more accessible to us than the writings of the mystics who lived in different times and cultures.
I encourage you to read the book. Once you do, that automatic gesture – the Sign of the Cross will be the gift that it is – an entry point to the very life of God.Read More