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"Ghost, we, at once, on the Sunday next following, "sing the glory of the Holy Trinity; and rightly is "this arrangement ordained, for, after the coming of "that same Holy Spirit, the faith in, and confession "of, the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, im"mediately began to be preached, and believed, and "celebrated in Baptism."'
In our own country, it was the glorious Martyr, St. Thomas of Canterbury, that established the Feast of Holy Trinity. He introduced it in his Archdiocese, in the year 1162, in memory of his having been consecrated Bishop on the first Sunday after Pentecost. As regards France, we find a Council of Aries, held in 1260, under the presidency of Archbishop Florentinus, solemnly decreeing, in its sixth canon, the Feast of Holy Trinity to be observed with an Octave. The Cistercian Order, which was spread throughout Europe, had ordered it to be celebrated in all its Houses, as far back as the year 1230. Durandus, in his Rationale, gives us grounds for concluding that, during the 13th Century, the majority of the Latin Churches kept this Feast. Of these Churches, there were some that celebrated it, not on the first, but on the last Sunday, after Pentecost; others kept it twice,—once on the Sunday next following the Pentecost Solemnity, and, a second time, on the Sunday immediately preceding Advent.
It was evident, from all this, that the Apostolic See would, finally, give its sanction to a practice, whose universal adoption was being prompted by Christian instinct. John the Twenty-second, who sat in the Chair of St. Peter as early as the year 1334, completed the work by a Decree, wherein the Church of Home accepted the Feast of Holy Trinity, and extended its observance to all Churches.
As to the motive which induced the Church, led, as she is, in all things, by the Holy Ghost, to fix one special day, in the Year, for the offering a solemn homage to the blessed Trinity, whereas all our adorations, all our acts of thanksgiving, all our petitions, are ever being presented to It,—such motive is to bo found in the change which was being introduced, at that period, into the liturgical Calendar. Up to about the year 1000, the Feasts of Saints marked on the general Calendar, and universally kept, were very few. From that time, they began to be more numerous; and there was evidence that their number would go on increasing. The time would come, when the Sunday's Office, which is specially consecrated to the blessed Trinity, must make way for that of the Saints, as often as one of their Feasts occurred on a Sunday. As a sort of compensation for this celebration of the memory of God's Servants on the very day which was sacred to the Holy Trinity, it was considered right, that once, at least, in the course of the Year, a Sunday should be set apart for the exclusive and direct expression of the worship which the Church pays to the great God, who has vouchsafed to reveal himself to mankind in his ineffable Unity and in his eternal Trinity.
1 Be divinis Officiis. Lib. xi. Cap. 1.
The very essence of the Christian Faith consists in the knowledge and adoration of One God in Three Persons. This is the Mystery whence all others flow. Our Faith centres in this as in the master-truth of all it knows in this life, and as the infinite object whose vision is to form our eternal happiness; and yet, we only know it, because it has pleased God to reveal himself thus to our lowly intelligence, which, after all, can never fathom the infinite perfections of that God, who necessarily inhabiteth light inaccessible.1 Human reason may, of itself, come to the knowledge of the existence of God as Creator of all beings; it may, by its own innate power, form to itself an idea of his perfections by the study of his works; but the knowledge of God's intimate being can only come to us by means of his own gracious revelation.
1 1 Tim., vi. 16.
It was God's gaod-pleasure to make known to us his essence, in order to bring us into closer union with himself, and to prepare us, in some way, for that faceto-face vision of himself which he intends giving us in eternity: but his revelation is gradual; he takes mankind from brightness unto brightness, fitting it • for the full knowledge and adoration of Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. During the period preceding the Incarnation of the eternal Word, God seems intent on inculcating the idea of his Unity, for polytheism was the infectious error of mankind; and every notion of there being a spiritual and sole cause of all things would have been effaced on earth, had not the infinite goodness of that God watched over its preservation.
Not that the Old Testament Books were altogether silent on the Three Divine Persons, whose ineffable relations are eternal; only, the mysterious passages, which spoke of them, were not understood by the people at large; whereas, in the Christian Church, a child of seven will answer them that ask him, that, in God, the Three Divine Persons have but one and the same nature, but one and the same Divinity. When the Book of Genesis tells us, that God spoke in the plural, and said: Let Us make man to our image and likeness,1 the Jew bows down and believes, but he understands not the sacred text; the Christian, on the contrary, who has been enlightened by the complete revelation of God, sees, under this expression, the Three Persons acting together in the formation of Man; the light of Faith developes the great truth to him, and tells him that, within himself, there is a
1 Gen, i. 26.
VOL. X. I
likeness to the blessed Three in One. Power, Understanding, and Will, are three faculties within him, and yet he himself is but one being.
In the Books of Proverbs, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus, Solomon speaks, in sublime language, of him who is eternal Wisdom; he tells us, and he uses every variety of grandest expression to tell us, of the divine essence of this Wisdom, and of his being a distinct Person in the Godhead;—but, how few among the people of Israel could see through the veil? Isaias heard the voice of the Seraphim, as they stood around God's throne; he heard them singing, in alternate choirs, and with a joy intense because eternal, this hymn: Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord!1 but who will explain to men this triple Sanctus, of which the echo is heard here below, when we mortals give praise to our Creator? So, again, in the Psalms, and the prophetic Books, a flash of light will break suddenly upon us; a brightness of some mysterious Three will dazzle us; but, it passes away, and obscurity returns seemingly all the more palpable; we have but the sentiment of the divine Unity deeply impressed on our inmost soul, and we adore the Incomprehensible, the Sovereign Being.
The world had to wait for the fulness of time to be completed; and then, God would send, into this world, his Only Son, Begotten of him from all eternity. This his most merciful purpose has been carried out, and the Word made Flesh hath dwelt among us.2 By seeing his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son of the Father,3 we have come to know that, in God, there is Father and Son. The Son's Mission to our earth, by the very revelation it gave us of himself, taught us that God is, eternally, Father, for whatsoever is in God is eternal. But for this merciful revelation, which is an anticipation of the light await
1 Is. vi. 3. 2 St. John, i. 14. * Ibid.
ing us in the next life, our knowledge of God would have been too imperfect. It was fitting, that there should be some proportion, between the light of Faith, and that of the Vision reserved for the future; it was not enough for man to know that God is One.
So that, we now know the Father, from whom comes, as the Apostle tells us, all paternity, even on earth.1 We know him not only as the creative power, which has produced every being outside himself; but, guided as it is by Faith, our soul's eye respectfully penetrates into the very essence of the Godhead, and there beholds the Father begetting a Son like unto himself. But, in order to teach us the Mystery, that Son came down upon our earth. Himself has told us expressly, that no one knoweth the Father, but the Son. and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him? Glory, then, be to the Son, who has vouchsafed to show us the Father! and glory to the Father, whom the Son hath revealed unto us!
The intimate knowledge of God has come to us by the Son, whom the Father, in his love, has given to us.3 And this Son of God, who in order to raise up our minds even to his own Divine Nature, has clad himself, by his Incarnation, with our Human Nature, has taught us that he and his Father are one ;l— that they are one and the same Essence, in distinction of Persons. One begets; the other is begotten; the One is named Power; the Other, Wisdom, or Intelligence. The Power cannot be without the Intelligence, nor the Intelligence without the Power, in the sovereignly perfect Being: but, both the One, and the Other produce a Third term.
The Son, who had been sent by the Father, had ascended into heaven, with the Human Nature which he had united to himself for all future eternity; and,
1 Eph.iii. 15. 2 St. Matth. xi. 27.
s St. John, iii. 16. 4 St. John, xvii. 22.