In the second part of the year, the six months from Trinity to Advent, the Holy Ghost whose reign begins at Pentecost, comes to repeat to us what our Lord Himself has taught us in the first part, the six months from Advent to Trinity Sunday.
The fundamental truth on which everything in the Christian religion rests, is the dogma of the Holy Trinity from whom all comes (Epistle), and to whom all baptized in His name must return (Gospel). In the course of the cycle, having called to our minds in order, God the Father, Author of creation, God the Son, Author of redemption and God the Holy Ghost, Author of our sanctification, the Church to-day, before all else, recapitulates the great mystery by which we acknowledge and adore the Unity of Nature and Trinity of Persons in almighty God (Collect).
"As soon as we have celebrated the coming of the Holy Ghost," says Abbot Rupert, in the twelfth century, " we hail in song the feast of the Holy Trinity, the following Sunday, a place in the calendar well chosen, for immediately after the descent of the Holy Spirit, preaching and conversion began and faith through baptism and confession in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
The dogma of the Holy Trinity is affirmed, in the liturgy, on every hand. It is in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost that we begin and end the Mass and Divine Office, and that we confer the Sacraments. All the Psalms end with the Gloria, the Hymns with the Doxology, and the Prayers by a conclusion in honour of the three Divine Persons. Twice during the Mass we are reminded that it is to the Holy Trinity that the Mass is being offered.
The dogma of the Trinity is expressed in the very fabric of our churches. Our fathers delighted to find a symbol of it in the admirably proportioned height, breadth and length of these buildings, in their primary and secondary divisions; the sanctuary, the choir and nave; the ground-floor, the triforium and the clerestory; the three entrances, three doors, three bays, three gables, and often three towers. On every hand, even to the smallest detail of decoration, the number three, repeated frequently, denotes a well conceived plan and a profound faith in the Blessed Trinity.
The same thought is expressed in Christian iconography, in various ways. Up to the twelfth century, God the Father is represented by a hand, emerging from the clouds in blessing and often surrounded by a nimbus containing a cross. By this hand is symbolized divine Omnipotence. In thirteenth and fourteenth century work one sees the face and then the figure of the Father. From the fifteenth century the Father is represented as an old man in the garb of a pontiff.
Up to the twelfth century, God the Son was at first represented by a cross, by a lamb or again by a gracious youth, in the same way that Apollo was represented in the pagan world. From the eleventh to the sixteenth century Christ appears bearded and in the prime of life. From the thirteenth century He is seen carrying the cross and often He is depicted as the Lamb.
The Holy Ghost was, at first, represented under the form of a dove, whose outspread wings often touch the mouths of both Father and Son to show that He proceeds from both. For the same reason, from the eleventh century He is depicted as a little child. In the thirteenth century He is a youth, in the fifteenth He is a man of ripe age, like the Father and the Son but with a dove above His head or in His hand to distinguish Him from the other two Persons. Since the sixteenth century the dove and the fiery tongues are the only representations of the Holy Ghost. Quite recently it was expressly forbidden to represent Him under a human form. Since 1628 was also forbidden the monstrous picture of three faces on one body.
As a symbol of the Trinity the triangle has been borrowed from geometry, depicting by its form the divine Unity in which are inscribed three angles, expressing the three Persons in God. Trefoil plants, as shamrock and clover serve to represent this great mystery, as also do three circles interwoven, with the word Unity inscribed in the central space belonging to all three.
A miniature of the XVIth cent, represents the Father and Son as like each other, with the same nimbus, the same triple crown, the hair worn in the same way and a single cloak drawing them close together. Further, they are united by the same book of divine Wisdom as well as by the Holy Ghost who joins one to the other by the ends of His wings. But the Father is older than the Son, and the beard of the one is pointed while that of the other is round. The Father wears a robe without a girdle and carries the globe of the earth in his hand, while the Son as a Priest, wears an alb with cincture and stole.
The feast of the Holy Trinity owes its origin to the fact that the ordinations of the Ember Saturday, which took place in the evening, were prolonged to the next day, which was Sunday which had no proper liturgy.
As this day is consecrated throughout the year to the Most Holy Trinity, the votive Mass composed in the seventh century to celebrate this mystery was said on the First Sunday after Pentecost; and since it occupied a fixed place in the liturgical calendar, this Mass was considered as establishing this Sunday as a special feast of the Blessed Trinity. Stephen, Bishop of Liege, who was born about 850, composed in the tenth century its office which was revised later on by the Franciscans.
The feast was in 1334 extended to the universal Church by Pope John XXII and made a Double of the first class by Pius X.
That we may ever be armed against all adversity, let us to-day, with the liturgy, make our solemn profession of faith in the Holy and Eternal Trinity and His indivisible Unity.
Almighty God, in making known to us that His one divine Nature is possessed by three distinct Persons reveals to us something of His own interior life.
Thus the Son possesses this life because the Father gives it to Him by an act of knowledge which proceeds from the divine Intelligence and the Holy Spirit, because it is communicated to Him by the Father and the Son, by an act of love having its origin in their Will.
And the divine mercy shines forth in the fact that we are called to share this happiness, which is proper to God alone, by knowing and loving Him as He knows and loves Himself.
Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas, atque indivisa unitas: confitebimur ei, quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam. * Domine Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra!
Blessed be the Holy Trinity, and undivided unity: we will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us. Ps. O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy name in all the earth!
(Tobias 12:6 and Psalm 8:2 from the Introit of Mass)
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui dedisti famulis tuis in confessione verae fidei, aeternae Trinitatis gloriam agnoscere, et in potentia majestatis adorare unitatem: quaesumus; ut ejusdem fidei firmitate, ab omnibus semper muniamur adversis.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given to Thy servants grace, in the confession of the true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of Thy majesty to worship the Unity; grant that by steadfastness in the same faith we may evermore be defended from all adversities.
Commemoration of the first Sunday after Pentecost
Deus, in te sperantium fortitude, adesto propitius invocationibus nostris: et quia sine te nihil potest mortalis infirmitas, praesta auxilium gratiae tuae: ut in exsequendis mandatis tuis, et voluntate tibi et actione placeamus.
O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in Thee, mercifully hear our prayers, and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do nothing without Thee, grant us the help of Thy grace, that in fulfilling Thy commandments, we may please Thee both in will and deed.
The continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples, "All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Going therefore , teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
(St Matthew 28:18-20)