The Mass: Our Trinity-ness

Pope Francis Mass consecration

For God so loved the world that He gave us John 3, verse 16, the most famous of all Bible verses, which sums up the meaning of life and of the world, in one sentence.

And God so loved the world that He not only gave John 3:16 as a written sentence, but also as a living reality. God loves the world so much that he gives His Son now. We share in His Trinity-ness even now, by the exercise of our religion.

The Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, everlastingly blessed—the Trinity constantly upholds the existence of the universe. But we could not know God’s love, if all we had staring at us were an inscrutable sky, and all the trees, rocks, rivers, animals, and other people in the world–beautiful as all these things are.

No. Out of love for us, God unfolded the mystery of His infinite love, and drew us into it—into His life, into His tri-unity. He accomplished this by doing all the things He did on Holy Thursday night. The Mass makes the life of the Trinity a living reality for us. Permit me to try to explain how.

Ghent Altarpiece Adoration of the LambOn Holy Thursday night, God the Son prayed and made an offering to the Father, in the Upper Room. He spoke divine words and chose bread and wine as the humble substances which would undergo transformation into His own mysterious personal self.

All for a purpose: the glory of the Father. Jesus gave Himself to us, to be sure, at the Last Supper, in the sacrament. But He gave Himself to us by giving Himself to the Father. The Body and Blood He gives, broken and shed, for love—for the glory of the Father. We share in the Body and Blood in order to join with Christ in the glorification of the Father.

During the Sacred Triduum, Christ prayed and offered Himself in sacrifice as a man. He exercised religion as a man. Human beings exercise religion. It would be backwards and ridiculous to say that God has religion. Because God is God, human beings have religion. But we can almost say that the Mass is ‘God’s religion,’ God ‘exercising religion.’ Because the heart of our religion, the heart of our Holy Mass, is: the Son of God, the divine Son, offering Himself to the Father.

What has been revealed to us, in John 3:16, and in the Bible taken as a whole—namely that the Father gives His Son, and the Son gives Himself back to the Father in an act of love: this is the eternal Trinity-ness. By our religion as human beings, we give ourselves to God. We come to church to submit ourselves to the divine will. We see through the divine revelation that, by being religious, we imitate God Himself. Because God Himself gives everything over—submits, so to speak.

The submission–the giving over of God the Father to God the Son and God the Son to God the Father–this is in the Mass. Actually: this is the Mass. The Mass is the Trinity drawing the world inside the mystery of Trinity-ness. In the Mass, we human beings exercise religion: we give ourselves to God. And Christ exercises religion, as a man: praying and offering sacrifice, in continuation with what He began on Holy Thursday. But Christ actually kind of exercises religion as God, too, in the Mass—loving the Father and giving Himself over to the Father.

I do not mean to be flip or blasphemous here. Like I said, religion only makes sense because God is God, and we are not. We give ourselves over to God because He is infinitely greater than us.

But I think the revelation of the Trinity can help us purify our religion by seeing how close the goal of religion comes to bearing a genuine similarity with the life of God. The revelation that God made on Holy Thursday purifies our human worship, because it forces us to remove all our fantasies about God and focus on the simple reality instead.

tabernacleIn Christ, God Himself has celebrated Mass, thanking and praising the Father for everything. Christ prayed on Holy Thursday that everything would come to its fulfillment, according to the divine plan, just like we pray at Mass. And Christ gave Himself over to the fulfillment of the plan, just like we do at Mass—or at least try to do.

And this revealed the eternal Trinity-ness. The eternal Trinity-ness abides in this one single, simple moment, with everything being as it is—everything as it is, held in the omnipotent Hand, God showing Himself forth in His works. God is no more complicated, no more impenetrable than a generous father is impenetrable and complicated. A generous father is actually magnificently simple. God is infinitely more magnificently simple than the clearest picture of a generous father that we can come up with.

The Father declares: ‘Here! For you! Everything for you!’ And the Son takes hold of the moment with an un-shifting grip; the Son exists only right now, only in the undying now, rejoicing in total peace. He responds: ‘Yes! Everything! Yours. Mine. Ours. Now. Forever. Beautiful. Life? There is no life, other than union with you, o heavenly Father. So may the cross come. My life is only to abide with You, the Source of all that is.’

May this be our participation in the Mass. The serene and un-shaking contemplation of reality, which gives us a share in the joy of the divine Son. Love, conquering darkness and nothingness, with the power of all the light and color and breeziness of the world as it is right now.

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