The Liturgy Reveals the Trinity

As humans – with a spiritual soul and a physical body – we can only relate to others through a physical body. We express all our thoughts, desires, intentions, and love through matter, whether by physical touch, physical sounds in speech, writing with ink and paper, or by electronic communication. Even our knowledge and communication with God is physical, as Pope Benedict XVI says:

True, no one has ever seen God as he is. And yet God is not totally invisible to us; he does not remain completely inaccessible. God loved us first… God has made himself visible: in Jesus, we are able to see the Father (cf. John 14:9). Indeed, God is visible in a number of ways. In the love story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross… he encounters us ever anew… in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. (Deus Caritas Est, 17).

Respecting our nature, God gives us Sacraments, outward signs that manifest and deepen our relationship with him. As Pope Francis writes:

We no longer have the gaze of St. Francis, who looked at the sun — which he called brother because so he felt it to be — and saw it beautiful and radiant with great splendor, and, full of wonder, he sang that it bears a likeness of You, Most High One. To have lost the capacity to grasp the symbolic value of the body and of every creature renders the symbolic language of the Liturgy almost inaccessible to the modern mentality. And yet there can be no question of renouncing such language. It cannot be renounced because it is how the Holy Trinity chose to reach us through the flesh of the Word. It is rather a question of recovering the capacity to use and understand the symbols of the Liturgy. We must not lose hope because this dimension in us, as I have just said, is constitutive; and despite the evils of materialism and spiritualism — both of them negations of the unity of soul and body — it is always ready to re-emerge, as is every truth (Desiderio Desideravi, 44).

The Trinity and the Sacraments
Sacraments are actions originating in God, in the whole Trinity. The Sacraments—Christ’s saving work—draw us into the inner life of the Trinity. This begins with Baptism, is nourished with the Eucharist, and strengthened by the other Sacraments until it reaches fulfillment in our union with the Blessed Trinity in heaven. As St John Paul II describes it:

“First, there is the value and demand of ‘living intimately united’ to Jesus Christ. Our union with the Lord Jesus, which has its roots in Baptism and is nourished with the Eucharist, has to express itself and be radically renewed each day. Intimate communion with the Blessed Trinity, that is, the new life of grace which makes us children of God, constitutes the ‘novelty’ of the believer, a novelty which involves both his being and his acting” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 46). Confirmation draws us more deeply into intra-Trinitarian life (cf. CCC 2769) by a “special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (CCC 1302), making us anointed—Christs—in the Word. This deepens our loving relationship with him with his special indwelling. His presence in us is there to help and guide us, conferring his gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and with the spirit of wonder and awe in his presence (cf. CCC 1299, 1303).

Becoming Ipse Christus in the Eucharist
The Eucharist is a special pathway to our encounter with Jesus Christ:

I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) These words of Jesus, with which the account of the Last Supper opens, are the crevice through which we are given the surprising possibility of intuiting the depth of the love of the persons of the Most Holy Trinity for us (Desiderio Desideravi, 2).

In the Mass we become fully identified with Christ, we become Christ himself — ipse Christus:

“The tragedy of the passion brings our own life and the whole of human history to fulfillment… The Christian is obliged to be alter Christus, ipse Christus — another Christ, Christ himself. Through baptism all of us have been made priests of our lives, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).” (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By, 96).

In the Eucharist our identification with Christ is complete. As anointed with the Holy Spirit, we can offer sacrifices to God the Father by uniting the sacrifice of our work, study, and service to others; our prayer, self-denial, and generous self-giving to others. We offer these actions of ours at the Offertory of the Mass, uniting them to the gifts of bread and wine which become Christ’s Body that is offered to the Father. Thus this one sacrifice—Christ’s and ours together—is offered by the one Priest—we united to Jesus on the Cross—to the Father in the Holy Spirit who dwells in the one Christ — ipse Christus — us and Jesus.

Our union with Christ in the Eucharist is the ultimate pathway to intra-Trinitarian life.

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.