Welcome to Genuine Talk, a forum for dialogue on the necessity and beauty of woman. Rather than start in medias res—that is, before jumping into a discussion on the feminine genius—let’s start at the Beginning Himself. We cannot speak about woman without first speaking about her Creator and Lover. Really, we cannot speak about any Truth divorced from God who is Truth.
In the Creed, we profess (and I’m paraphrasing here) that God is 3 distinct Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in 1 Divine Nature. Intellectually grappling with and contemplating the divinely-revealed, complex mystery of our Triune God makes Christians feel as hip as Mall Cop's Paul Blart—approaching less-informed individuals on our fancy motorized vehicles with our right hand on our away hip to give the illusion that we’re carrying sufficient ammunition for any Trinitarian questions which, of course, we both know, we aren’t—and makes non-Christians wonder why us crazies are allowed to exist. There ain’t nothin’ in the created world which is both 3 and 1 at the same time.
The fact is, our belief initially appears crazy. Our knowledge of the Trinity is reasonable, based on God’s revelation of Himself to humanity, but crazy as far as our darkened, finite understanding is concerned. Instead of approaching God from a numeric perspective, let us, rather, attempt to “see” God. By “see” God, I mean let us both visualize and understand God in a manner which is more conducive to human understanding. Imagery is an important learning instrument because we come to understand the invisible better through visualization, albeit an infinitely inferior form of visualization in the case of “seeing” God.
The image we will employ for our understanding of the Trinity is the family. Before reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West (a must-read for anyone who is unfamiliar with or would like to re-visit Saint John Paul II’s reflections on God, body, soul, and sex), I had never been exposed to the idea that the family is an image of God. Of course, we as Christians learn upon receiving our first Bibles that each of us is made in the image of God. But we are also made in Imago Trinitatis as an intimate communion of individual images of God. This communion of images, this communion of persons, is most evident within the context of the family community. Now, I recognize that the family community looks different for each of us, but the following discussion will be based upon the principle of the family, that is, husband, wife, and biological child.
In the beginning stages of the family, man and woman grow in knowledge of each other by revealing their souls entirely to their beloved. As they cultivate this intimate knowledge, man and woman choose to love each other, and by entering the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the two individuals become one. This unity indicates that what once was a combination of “my” belongings (e.g. “my” body, “my” money, “my” desires, “my” happiness, “my” future, “my” salvation) becomes a unified “our” (e.g. our body, our money, our desires, our happiness, our future, our salvation). An important aspect of recognizing the “our” in a marriage relationship is an individual understanding that everything “I” have is my beloved’s. The very fact that each individual has his or her own understanding of the marital relationship, however, demonstrates that while husband and wife are one, they remain distinct persons. Through their penetrating knowledge of each other springs forth self-giving love which, in turn, generates a new life—a living manifestation of their love, a third being who is from the very being of his father and mother but distinct from both father and mother. Thus, we have an intimate communion of persons: father, mother, and child.
Within the Trinity, the Father infinitely knows Himself. According to His perfect self-knowledge, the Father “spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word—and he has no more to say” (Saint John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, qtd. in CCC 65). This single Word is also called the Son of God. As God the Father eternally generates God the Son, the Son eternally receives all that He is from God the Father. Hopefully with the assistance of our family image, we can “see” two distinct Persons, Who are one. Following along with the dialogue on the family, we come to understand that through the Father’s intimate knowledge (Word) of Himself springs forth a new life which is the Love between the two—a third Person Who is one in Being with the Father and the Son while remaining distinct from both Father and Son—the Holy Spirit.
Why is this discussion relevant to our daily lives? Well, I like to keep these Trinitarian Truths in mind as a daily reminder that the Love story between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit does not conclude with the procession of the Holy Spirit. Rather, God’s Love story merely begins with His communion of Persons. The Love within the Trinity is so powerful … I use this term loosely and colloquially. By saying God’s Love is “so powerful,” I do not wish to suggest that something may exist which is more powerful. Instead, I intend to convey that the Trinity is Love Itself, infinitely and perfectly. “Powerful” here is meant to suggest a driving force. Although the statement would have been true if I had said that “the Love within the Trinity is perfect,” we would be dealing with an absolute statement which loses the implication of a driving force. I digress … The Love within the Trinity is so powerful that God willed to create the heavens and the earth, the entire universe, and all that exists in creation simply to share this Love. Wow. We were made by Love, for Love, and to Love. That is certainly significant for every moment of our existence.
Three final notes:
First, while the image of the family reveals a lot about the Trinity, we must keep in mind that it is merely an image, a deficient reflection of our mysterious Lord. Moreover, the Trinity does not conform to our images. The very definition of “image” maintains that we must conform to the Exemplar, not the other way around. I value the contemporary analogy which Dr. William Riordan (a strong man of God and wonderful example of Christ’s Love) shares with his students. The analogy says, “When we take a selfie, the image produced on our cell phone is an inanimate, 2-dimensional version of the living, breathing human being which we are. If the selfie were to speak to us, it would be compelled to say, ‘I am nothing but what you are.’” How much more so are we to address God? We are nothing but what HE IS.
Second, even though the sacramental union of marriage is a powerful sign of the Love of the Trinity, it is a sign. Marital union is neither man’s end, nor his means for perfect happiness and fulfillment. Within any human relationships, man will continue to yearn for another. This yearning transcends the realm of earthly fulfillment and reaches toward the divine. Because each person is made in the image of God, man can experience a glimpse of God in the beauty and goodness of another, but he will continue to long for the fullness of his Creator. Though God made male and female for each other, He ultimately made man for Himself, and “our hearts are restless until they find rest in You, O Lord” (Saint Augustine, Confessions).
Third, in revealing Himself to man through an elementary understanding of the great mystery of the Trinity, God has revealed the purpose of man’s existence: “Love, by its nature, desires to expand its own communion … Out of sheer goodness and generosity, God wanted to create a great multitude of other persons to share in his own eternal, ecstatic ‘exchange of love’” (Theology of the Body for Beginners, 8). Women, you are called to Love in the way that only you can. Men, you are called to Love in the way that only you can. We might not have all of the answers to deep, mysterious questions about God and His wonderful creation, but we have Love, and an authentic example of Love is surely enough to draw wondering souls into the captivating embrace of a God who Loves us all.
Your servant of God, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who in her dying moments did say:
I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth, hasten to let fall upon me
a shower of roses that I too may be inflamed with that fire of love which burned so brilliantly in your heart and brought you so gloriously to the arms of Jesus, my Lord and my God.
Image: The Holy Trinity and The Holy Family, courtesy of http://www.calefactory.org/pix/slideshow-christ/slides/hc-holyfamily2.htm
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