The Trinity and the Fulfillment of Love

The Church celebrates this weekend the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, the mystery that God is three divine persons, all of whom share the one Godhead. This mystery is at the core of our faith and is perhaps the most difficult teaching to understand.

The approach to the Trinity that I have found most helpful begins, interestingly enough, with the thought of a leading Jewish theologian Martin Buber. Dr. Buber began with the idea that to be a person is above all else to be in relationship with others. Our relationships may be better or worse, stronger or weaker; and for every relationship, there is a spirit of that relationship, such as a family spirit, a team spirit or a school spirit. When we deeply care most deeply about another person or any subject, there is what Dr. Buber called an I-Thou relationship, what Christians call perfect love.

his relationship may exist, for example, in marriage, between parents and children, with friends, in the love of a town or nation, or even when a person sees divine artistry in nature. Dr. Buber also pointed out that, when we have this highest of relationships, we also, whether we know it or not, honor God Himself. Thus, for example, if a man loves his wife because she is wise, kind or understanding, he is also honoring the source of wisdom, kindness, or understanding, which is God. Or, if a person truly appreciates the beauty and majesty of nature, he honors beauty and majesty itself, which begin with God.

As humans we can only think about so many people or things. But God is unlimited and has this perfect love for every person. And in loving us, He also loves Himself, for He is the source of all of our goodness. But this love is not merely a self-love; otherwise it would be less than the highest love. This perfect love is instead for another person who also gives this love back perfectly. There is a spirit to all relationships; and between this divine I and this divine Thou there such is a perfect relationship that He is a person, the perfect spirit of the divine love.

There thus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In short, as St. John says, “he who loves is born of God and knows God. . . God is love.” John 4:7-8.