Among the different doctrines of our faith, nothing is more mysterious than the dogma of the Trinity. Simply put, we have one God but in three distinct persons. It doesn’t mean that we have three gods but it also doesn’t mean that we have a God who is alone.
The most popular story about the Trinity is the struggle of St. Augustine, one of the most popular theologians we have. It was said that he was trying to understand the dogma of the Trinity and how to articulate it. While he was studying, he fell asleep and had a dream. He dreamt that he was walking along a beach when he saw a child. He thought the child was just playing. He saw the child got a bucket of water from the ocean, then he dug a small hole in the sand and he was pouring the water from his bucket that he got from the ocean into this small hole. Augustine seeing the absurdity of the exercise asked the child, “Son, what are you doing?”, the child replied, “I’m trying to put all the water of the ocean into this little hole.” Augustine laughed and said, “You can’t do that! It’s just impossible.” The child replied, “And so is your effort to understand the Trinity.”
Another story is when St. Patrick became a bishop and a missionary to Ireland. When he was asked to talk about the Trinity, what he did was to pick up a shamrock and he used that to talk about the Trinity, on how there are three leaves on a piece of shamrock but still are attached to one stem.
St. Arnold Janssen, the founder of the Divine Word Missionaries also made his own description of the Trinity by basing it on the relationship of the Three persons of the Trinity to the Blessed Virgin Mary. For St. Arnold Janssen, the Virgin Mary is the daughter of God the Father, the mother of God the Son and the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. I find this description simple and yet very profound.
But one of the best that I’ve heard was this story of an old African man who has a hut with two small windows. During that week, he hosted a bible study group and they were discussing about the Trinity and how they seemed to be stumped in trying to understand. Then he entered the discussion. He said, “I’m old and I’m not really well educated but this is how I understand the Trinity. Whenever I wake up in the morning, I see the rays of the sun coming in my window and because of it, it warms the house. When I peer out of the window, I see the sun who I describe as God the Father, because he is the source of light. Then when I see the rays coming in my window, I see Jesus Christ because he is sent by the Father. And when the house warms because of the sun, that’s the Holy Spirit. Because you may not see the Holy Spirit but you can feel its presence.
Now why did God reveal himself as a Trinity? There maybe many answers but I think because God wanted to give us an example that as God is one but in three distinct persons, we should also live the like the Trinity. We must live as a community of persons. We are one community; we are one parish even if we are all different. We may come from different races, different countries, and different ages and yet we are called to be one.
Also, like St. Augustine, we have to admit that we can’t and we shouldn’t try to answer everything. We must admit that there are things in this world that will remain mysterious and we must just simply believe and trust. We believe in the Trinity not because the church has invented it but because Jesus said so when He said, we must baptise everyone, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We must believe in that because Jesus said so. This maybe humbling especially for people who try to understand everything. But we should remember that we are just mere creations of God and we should be thankful that God revealed himself in that way and we should also try to live like the Trinity in the everydayness of our lives.