Sunday, June 07, 2009

Trinity Sunday - Yesterday and Today

As a convert to Mother Church, after an upbringing in the home of a devout Evangelical, Midwestern pastor, and after twenty-plus years being an ordained Protestant pastor myself, many have asked why. Why become a Catholic? Isn't it enough to know you are "saved" by "accepting" Jesus Christ as my "personal Lord and Savior?" What does the Catholic Church bring to me that wasn't available in a Protestant faith?

For me, it's been like following hints, intimations, a trail of bread crumbs in a dark wood.

Today is Trinity Sunday in Catholic Christendom. At Vigil Mass, we sang:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

As a small boy, I sang exactly the same words. But I wondered, "Cherubim and seraphim? What are they?" They are orders of angels. Protestants don't care much about such things. "What 'denomination' does?" I wondered. I had no answer for a long time, but the question stayed with me.

Why? Because it seemed like a cool breeze from a wider, higher range of mountains; related, but of a world vaster than our dry and rather arid little land of John Wesley.

We sang of God in three persons, blessed Trinity at my father's Evangelical United Brethren church, All Saints, in South Bend, Indiana. It is no longer "All Saints Church." Now it is just "Faith Church."

We didn't emphasize the Trinitarian nature of the Holy Godhead, but we were drummed with making Jesus our personal Lord and Savior. Saints? Who cares? It is ALL about Jesus. Funny thing is, no one observed that the saints are the handiwork of Our Lord, living lamps of His grace burning in our world through the ages. No time for "saints".

On this Trinity Sunday, strangely, I find Our Lord, Jesus Christ, rules over a far more expansive Kingdom than the rather truncated one I grew up knowing as a non-Catholic child - the Church Triumphant in Heaven, enjoying the Beatific Vision before Him; the Church Suffering in Purgatory, being prepared and "purged" of the residue of sin so as to enjoy His Presence for eternity; and the Church Militant here on earth, struggling but assured of victory due to His Victory of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

The Holy Catholic Church - 'catholic' is Greek for 'universal' - is big enough for everyone. God would not make the Church anything less. Yes, we must indeed "accept" Jesus as our Lord, but we are much more than mere "deciders". The Catholic Church provides for every aspect of human living to become sanctified ... all the way to Heaven where by God's grace alone we will enjoy the Beatific Vision of the Most Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - for evermore.

Holy, Holy, Holy - God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity.

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