The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
My little sister was just beginning to attend mass with us in the church rather than spending the time in the nursery. While she was fairly well behaved, my parents had packed a small bag of toys and books to entertain her during the liturgy. When the mass ended, we exited church past the holy water. My sister reached her right hand up over head to reach into the holy water and dipped her fingers in. She touched her fingers to her forehead, heart, and shoulders in the sign of the cross. After touching her shoulders, she suddenly had a look of concern in her eyes. She looked at the bag of toys in her left hand and she looked her right hand still dripping holy water. After a moment of considering her options, she finally stuck the bag of toys between her legs and held it with her knees. Having freed her left hand, she folded it together with her right hand and smiled. She had observed us all doing the sign of the cross many times before, noticed that we always folded our hands after making the sign of the cross, and felt compelled to do the same as she made this simple gesture. I had to smile at her ingenuity and at her eagerness to join us in this prayer.
I have remembered this experience often as I've taught my daughters the sign of the cross. As a parent, seeing my daughters make the sign of the cross has been a rewarding experience in my domestic church. It is adorable to see them fumble their hands around to find the right gestures and hear their little voices try to pronounce the words, but it is extra special that they are learning a central part of our faith and learning to join us in a common expression of our faith.
Many of us, like my sister and my daughters, learned to do these gestures and say these words at a very young age. For most of us, it was probably the first prayer we learned. When we first learned the sign of the cross, we may have been like my sister, who was excited to do it with the holy water after mass that Sunday and to put some thought into how to make sure she did it right. However, now that we’ve grown older we might frequently perform the gesture and recite the words of the sign of the cross rather thoughtlessly because it has become so routine for us over years and years of repetition. As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, it's a good opportunity for us to reflect on the meaning of the words we say as we pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
This weekend we celebrated my aunt and uncle's thirtieth wedding anniversary. They were invited to the altar to renew their wedding vows during the liturgy and the priest also invited their children to join them on the altar. It was fitting on Trinity Sunday to see the lover, the beloved, and the life that was created by their love together as an image of the Trinity. Our domestic churches are powerful environments in which we learn about the Trinity, because family is often our most powerful experience of love. We might expect that the Scripture proclaimed on Trinity Sunday would proclaim the love between the persons of the Trinity and the ways that this love unites them together, but in our Scripture this weekend we find something more.
The Love of God is not limited to love between the persons of the Trinity. God has chosen to share that love with us as well. In our first reading, we hear Moses describing God's love for the chosen people and the psalm proclaims, "blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own." The second reading assures us God's love is not limited to the persons within the Trinity; rather, we are children of God because we have received a spirit of adoption. While the persons of the Trinity had something as great as the other persons of the Trinity to share their love with, they still chose to share their love with humanity though humans are seemingly insignificant by comparison. Furthermore, by instructing us to call God father, the second reading reinforces the connection between the love in the Trinity and the love in a domestic church.
As you pray this week, when you make the sign of the cross and say the words ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’, remember the great love that the persons of the Trinity have for one another. But also recognize that as you say those words you are also making a profound gesture in the shape of a cross. Let that cross remind you of what Jesus did on his cross because of God’s great love for us, and as you sign yourself with that cross, remember that love has been poured into your heart and that you can share that love with God and with your neighbors. Sharing the love of God that you have been given is a wonderful way to celebrate Trinity Sunday.