One day, a young man, overwhelmed by the cares of life just climbed up a coconut tree and would not come down. Throughout the day, no one in the village could make him come down, not his family, not his friends, not the community leaders. Towards the end of the day, the old pastor coming back from his missionary work at another village came by and noticed the commotion. He went under the tree and without any word, looked up and simply made the “Sign of the Cross” to bless the distressed young man. Immediately he hurried down to everyone’s surprise and delight. Everyone thanked the old priest. They affirmed how the “Sign of the Cross” was truly powerful. The old priest was able to summon God’s grace just by the simple gesture that accompanied a silent invocation. Then the young man interjected saying, “I had to come down, that old priest threatened to cut the tree!” In making the Sign of the Cross, we had been taught that at the words, ‘In the name of the Father, we touch our forehead, to affirm that the Father is the First Person, the Godhead. At the words, ‘and of the Son,’ we touch the breast or heart, to signify that the Son of God came down from heaven and became man. Lastly, by touching the left and the right shoulders with the words, ‘And the Holy Spirit,’ we profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one source. We make it from the left to the right to express that the Cross of Christ removed us from the left side of sin and damnation to the right side of holiness and salvation. We finish the sign of the Cross with the word, ‘Amen’ which means, “So be it”, we assert that we believe in the Holy Trinity.
But no matter how much we try to explain the Divine Trinity, we can never fully explain the mystery of the Three Persons in One God. Thru the centuries, the most that the human mind could do is to grapple in illustrating how 1+1+1 is 1 by using the image of a shamrock with a three-part leaf, the sun that gives light and heat with its rays, a handkerchief folded in three is still a single piece of cloth, or a river turning to a cascading waterfall and flowing to the sea is the same water. The New Testament scholar Nicholas Thomas Wright writes that the trouble with the doctrine on the Trinity “is that it often appears as a challenge rather than an invitation, a puzzle rather than a welcome, something to tease the brain rather than transform the heart.”
In the Gospel reading today, the Lord commands his disciples to “go… and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It’s more like a marketing scheme of networking… as one is touched so one also goes to touch another, and so on and so forth. It’s an all-inclusive mandate to spread in the realm of space but also of time, assuring that the word reaches out to places but also forward into time. The mandate is to bring all into the dynamics of the divine life of the Triune God, that all be one in living the life of love in communio, in community.
Applying a principle that St Thomas penned “Agere sequitur esse,” action is determined by the nature of things, spiritual writers say that Father- creator, Son- redeemer, Holy Spirit- sanctifier, enabler. We see this in how the Blessed Virgin Mary relates with the Triune God: as handmaid of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Each time we sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, may we not only grow in our devotion to the Holy Trinity but truly in our life of faith in God; the Mystic Julian of Norwich says that our life too, is threefold. In the first stage, we have our being, in the second our growth, and in the third perfection.
Having been created in the image and likeness of God, we already have the vestiges of the Trinitarian God in ourselves. St Bernard says that if we remain firm in remembering our God, in contemplating the Divine Wisdom and by living in love we shall participate in the very divine life.
The Lord Jesus has shown us the way to go by the vertical axis of relating to the Father- always abiding by His divine will and the horizontal axis of relating to one another- always in love and compassion, humility and service. The Spirit that flows between the Father and the Son has been shared with us to enable us to live in communion with God and with one another.
Each time we sign ourselves “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as we rise from the bed, may we welcome a new day of communion with God and one another. And each time sign ourselves as we retire in bed, may we close our eyes in gratitude for the wonderful opportunity to grow in communion with God and one another, and for the energy to abide by the Lord’s mandate to go to bring the life of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit to every nook and cranny of our own life and all around us.