How do you envision the Holy Trinity? This question has been asked in more than one catechism class, especially during Confirmation preparation. In one such incident at St Anne Catholic Church in Albuquerque seven years ago, the query was posed to a high school Confirmation class, specifically asking what they thought the Holy Spirit was. Of nearly thirty participants, only one spoke up. He said the Holy Spirit was the Holy Trinity. While this is not really a wrong answer, it is only part of the equation.
All too often catechists offer that the Spirit is a mystery that we cannot understand in this life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church would seem to disagree, with the subject index listing no less than fifty articles relating to the images, the meaning, the gifts, the fruits, and the work of the Holy Spirit in direct oneness with Father and Son.
Around the same time as the Confirmation inquiry, a friend received a greeting card that had been purchased from Bridge Building Images. www.bridgebuilding.com It pictured a Holy Trinity created in the image of the Sioux. It pictured the Father, the great Chief, in full Native American headdress above the Son, who was pictured as a self-sacrificing warrior, hands uplifted. Between them was a vision of the Holy Spirit depicted as a falcon rather than the common Christian image of a dove. It turns out that the iconic painting was created by Fr John Guiliani, a Catholic priest.
In the language of the Sioux, the Father is called Wakan Tanka, which has a variety of meanings including ‘Great Mystery.’ This is the Creator and Provider of all things, who is honored by Native Indians through reverence to him, the sun, mother earth, and all things in creation. Followers of this belief are not guided to only one demonstration of faith, but are expected to respect Wakan Tanka in their own way.
Fr Guiliani’s seemingly endless work portrays saints and Christian traditions in Native American guise, which may not be such a stretch with the likes of Kateri Tekakwitha or Juan Diego, but also provides a universality to the Blessed Mother and Jesus. It’s always fun to ask catechism kids to bring pictures of Jesus from home and to recognize the different images artists have created. Fr Guiliani’s art captures that essence, and many of his paintings can be seen in churches of South Dakota (among others) where Native Americans celebrate their Christianity..
Revelations of Divine Love (aka Revelations of Love or simply, Revelations) is the record of sixteen visions or ‘showings’ given to Julian of Norwich. The 14-15th century mystic said her sight of the Trinity could be likened to life in heaven; God is the Trinity and the Trinity is God: maker, caretaker, lover, and joy all presented to humankind in the reality of Jesus the Lord. Julian said that wherever Jesus is spoken of in truth, the Blessed Trinity is understood. In response to her first revelation, she shouted “Benedicite Domine!” Bless you, O Lord. (RDL #4) And this was only the beginning of her great understanding of the Holy Trinity’s interaction in the passion, death, and Resurrection of the Savior.
A most unusual, image of the Trinity can be found in a simple, everyday product most of us have in our homes: 3-In-One Oil. George W Cole may not have been thinking of the Holy Trinity when he created the substance in Asbury Park, New Jersey back in 1894; he was actually looking for a multi-purpose substance that would lend to the proper maintenance of a bicycle. He sought a product that would protect, clean, and lubricate in one application. Many hands have held the business Cole founded, and it has belonged to the WD-40 Company since 1995.
Although there have been many ideas about what the Three-in-One Holy Trinity is, it was not the central idea of the fledgling Church in the first centuries of Christianity. The whole concept was not resolved at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, where the first remnants of the Nicene Creed came into being. The main issue there was the relationship of the Father to the Son, the ‘consubstantiality’ of the two. It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was taken for granted, just like modern folks take the miracle of 3-In-One Oil for granted.
Protection is the desire and responsibility of the Father. It is defined as keeping safe from harm or to shield, in essence to provide well-being. Whether or not the word ‘clean’ is used as a noun, adjective, adverb, or verb, it points to the same meaning: to free something from dirt, stain, or harmful substances. (Compact Oxford English Dictionary) This was done for us by the cleansing salvation of Jesus the Son.
The same dictionary reveals that to lubricate, one applies a substance to machinery or the body in order to allow a smooth movement. Our ‘smooth movement’ is the effort of the Holy Spirit, the guiding force that enacts the word of the Father and the action of the Son. Together, the Holy Trinity does indeed protect, clean, and lubricate us.
Asking again: how do you envision the Holy Trinity? Some might relate to one of the analogies presented here, or they may have an idea of their own. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds the faithful that a person is baptized in the name (not names) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; they are one in the same being, and that this is the central mystery of faith and life from which all other mysteries of faith arise. (CCC #233-4)
This Sunday (June 15, 2014) is the solemnity known as The Most Holy Trinity. Don’t forget to worship, and give thanks that we have been oiled to share in the presence of God. On any day, the faithful can know that the gift of the Holy Trinity is even closer than that familiar little red, white, and black can we rely so heavily on.