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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holy Family / Holy Trinity

+ JMJ +

Yesterday during my Adoration hour, I was thrilled to see a small Nativity in the front of the chapel. As I prayed my rosary, I concentrated on this trio and their trials, and the significance of family, especially in these dark days.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

At a very young age, I was taught that these three names were a prayer, all by itself, for the names that make up this family carry salvation for us. They are eternal, for our salvation came from the "YES" of Mary and Joseph, and the sacrifice of that very Infant who grew up to be so obedient in his sacrifical love for His Father's will.

I still remember, on hot, stormy nights, as I cowered under my covers, sweating, terrified and shaking, I prayed these very names, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" Over and over again. And somehow, I was comforted; in spite of the fierce winds outside, the creaking branches of the trees rubbing against the window, and the rain and hail falling hard against the exterior walls, somehow I was able to sleep again, peacefully, held with Jesus in His Mother's arms. I suppose I spent many a night cuddled with the Infant Jesus, although I didn't understand the power of such a simple prayer.

My knowledge and faith have matured over time, and it leads me to sometimes contemplate not only the meaning of the Holy Family, but also of the Holy Trinity; for isn't the child of the Holy Family the Second Person of the Holy Trinity? Is it any mistake that the Holy Family is a reflection of God, for it is the very love of a man and a woman together that produces a child? For it is not the man or the woman alone that brings life; it is love. It is the productive love of a man and woman that is the reflection of God's image. We cannot, then, understand what "family" means unless we seek to understand the profound truth of the Holy Trinity.

I have heard Catholics and non-Catholics alike tell me that the Trinity can't be understood, is not SUPPOSED to be understood, and so we should not even TRY to understand. To those people, I suggest that they contemplate the Holy Family, and ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to reveal God to them. Let the Holy Family teach you about the Trinity; they are a living example, humanized for clearer understanding.

Is it exact? No...the Trinity is so profound and infinite that we as human beings cannot ever fathom the depths of God, and it is true that we are not supposed to understand EVERYTHING. Yet, that is not to say we should not seek to understand; for in that seeking, that is were God reveals Himself to us, little by little, beckoning us through trials and purifications, helping us to understand to the degree that we are able.

I just LOVE the Icon of the Holy Trinity, for it has helped me to understand God a little more, and understand the Saints, for the icon reveals so much. It was after some of the symbolism of the icon was explained to me that I finally understood a concept we had briefly come across in class, but the image solidified this tiny comprehension.

The eye naturally follows in a circle beginning at the feet of the person on the left, travels around and ends on the right. Whether our comprehension follows our eye is a different matter, but as an iconologist explained this to me, let us look at the Trinity in this manner.

We see that the heads of the person in the middle and on the right are inclined towards the one on the left in a show of deference. So clearly, the person on the left is God the Father. Just in case we miss this point, his robes of gold convey his Divinity and Person. God the Father is the First Person of the Trinity. We see that the person in the middle is holding out 2 fingers, to indicate to us that He is Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. That means that the Person on the right is the personification of the Holy Spirit.

Now that you can identify all of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, trace the line beginning at God the Father's foot. Follow the line of his leg, and as the line continues, up to His eye. His gaze goes straight across to the gaze of the Holy Spirit across from Him. Follow that downward to the foot of the Holy Spirit.

What do you see? A chalice. The chalice contained within the Trinity, that invites us inward to PARTICIPATION in this very Mystery.

Now look at the chalice in the center of the table. It's obvious that this stands for the Blood of Christ. This is further indicated because Jesus Christ is in the center before the chalice, and it makes sense that the chalice is in the center of the table and not His hand...for it is an offering of His blood.

It is through the blood of Christ that we are ABLE to enter into God's presence.

This icon is proleptic of the beautific vision. Do you want to see Heaven? Pray with this reveals all that we need to know in our present condition.

Many of the Saints experienced what are called "Ecstasies" and "Trances" and similar things. People observed that, in prayer, they were able to remain completely still, as they were so ABSORBED with God.

Consider this: At Mass, we pray the Nicene Creed, and some of the words say, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son."

"Proceeds" is a key word. Have you ever considered what it meant? Look at it again. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

When the Saints experienced their ecstasies, it is understood by great theological minds that they had been drawn into the Divine Processions...they had entered into the Holy Trinity.

When we look upon this icon, we, too, are drawn into the Divine Processions, visually, and we come to see that this happens through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, who paid for our passage. It is the Holy Spirit that INVITES us and conveys this understanding, and God the Father who willed us into being, for Him and Him alone. Yet Jesus had to offer of Himself, ALL of Himself, in order that we might experience eternity with God.

The Holy Family is simply proleptic (indicative of a future reality) of what is to come; it is what we should seek to be here on earth. No, not all of us are called into human unions, however, we ARE called into that same reflection of self-giving love, sacrificial love, which proceeds from...the Trinity.

It is a mistake to avoid contemplating the Trinity; it is a mistake to admonish someone that they aren't SUPPOSED to understand such things. Rather, we should be ENCOURAGING each other to seek God, especially through these most sublime mysteries. We are all called to be Saints, even here on Earth. We are all called to participate in the life of Christ...and what is the Life of Christ but the Eternal Kingdom of God, there, held lovingly in the arms of the Holy Trinity?


Adrienne said...

Amazingly well written!!

Anonymous said...

The icon is so beautiful--I'm copying it to my blog.

"we should be ENCOURAGING each other to seek God, especially through these most sublime mysteries. We are all called to be Saints, even here on Earth. We are all called to participate in the life of Christ."

And, we are called in the "Communion of Saints" Jesus want's us to interceed, pray for, feed, assist, encourage each other! Good post.

Fr. V said...

For ONCE (I think) I meme'd you before you got me! (Actually, it won't happen until tomorrow but I don't think I'll be around my computer much so I thought I'd pre-warn you. Happy New Year!

Melody said...

That icon is also sometimes called the "Old Testament Trinity" for the three angels who visited Abraham (who, some Biblical commentaries say, represent the Holy Trinity). At any rate, it is one of my favorites.

Adoro said...

melody ~ True, and in fact, if you read that story about Abraham, we can't really tell if they were angels or God Himself because the language fluctuates. One moment the "angel" is saying something, the next moment, "the Lord" is speaking.

eliztrin said...

This has LONG been my favorite icon. Last year, my nephew spent a semester in Russia, and brought me back this icon. I pray with it often.... thanks for the additional explanation!

Anonymous said...

Love that ICON too..

Credo said...

God Bless.
As we welcome 2008.
From all at Credo,Catholic Journal in Ireland.

Pistol Pete said...

Great reflections on the Trinity and the Holy Family. They have clearly inspired you to greater levels of faith.

Adoro te Devote said...

adrienne ~ Thanks!

tara ~ Copy away...I did! Always glad to "see" you.

Fr. V. ~ Wow, this IS the first time you got me first! Happy New year!

eliztrin ~ I need this icon for my home. Someday....

MJP ~ It's incredible, isn't it? I want to study it further.

Credo ~ Happy New Year to all of you !

Pistol Pete ~ How can they not? God is so good to us!