In a society that is so confused about how to find real happiness, an examination of the Trinity can reveal the love everyone is looking for beginning in the marriage and then following through to the family and even to society. "The Trinity is a communion of persons, a family whose life is love."1 Taking a closer look at the Trinity will help explain how it is the model of charity in our lives.
On this earth there is no complete explanation of the Trinity. But a limited description could be that the Trinity is an eternal exchange of love shared between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this exchange of love, each person reveals the communion in the three as explained by Christopher West:
A 'common union' (communion) of persons is established to the degree that persons mutually give themselves to one another in sacrificial love... The Father eternally 'begets' the Son by giving himself to and for the Son. In turn, the Son (the 'beloved of the Father') eternally receives the love of the Father and eternally gives himself back to the Father. This ever-shared, ever-spirating love is the Holy Spirit who, as we say in the Nicene Creed,'proceeds' from the Father and the Son.' ....Perfect love-----perfectly and eternally given, perfectly and eternally received, perfectly and eternally returned ----that's God.2
From this explanation, the model that the Trinity represents is two-fold; a communion of persons and in that communion, a sacrificial love. People are meant to live in communion with one another. Like the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, man is to share his life with others. This communion between each member of the Trinity reveals an ongoing flow of love, one to the other. Man, male and female, is also meant to love and be loved as the members of the Trinity demonstrate. Pope John Paul II explains this beautifully in his encyclical, Redemptor Hominis when he says, "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it."3 This communion of love is the model that can be used in the marriage, the family and society to find and live love and happiness.
There may be no analogy used more in scripture to illustrate the love Christ has for his Church than that of marriage; bridegroom and bride, husband and wife. If the writers of scripture see this spousal relationship as important enough to illustrate Christ's love, the conclusion can be drawn that the love and communion shared in marriage must have profound importance. The Pontifical Council for the Family confirms this in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality:
Marriage is not, then, the effect of chance or the product of evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind his design of love. By means of the reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to them, husband and wife tend toward the communion of their beings, in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives.4
The Vows of Consent spoken and agreed upon during the wedding Mass of the Sacrament of Matrimony identify the expression of love and communion the couple promise to live in their marital life. This expression is recognized in the Trinity. "God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit imparts a specific share of his inner life of union and communion to those who enter sacramental Marriage."5 The first Vow of Consent asks the couple if they have come to the Sacrament of Matrimony freely and without reservation to give themselves to the other. Each person in the Trinity gives and continues to give freely of Himself in love. One of the many ways in which the Father gave freely of His own love was sending His Son to redeem mankind from original sin. Father John Hardon explained this in The Catholic Catechism:
God could have set a new and purely natural destiny for man and promised him a natural happiness after death. He could also have reopened heaven without the Incarnation by simply forgiving everything without reparation. But this would have been less in keeping with his perfect justice and with the divine will to manifest his perfect love. He therefore decided to take the most sublime course possible. His only Son was to take on human nature and thus representing all humanity, redeem us through his passion and death.6
Christ's example of giving freely of Himself is quite obvious in His passion and death. He was not coerced or forced to give up His life, but chose to do His Father's will of His own accord. The Holy Spirit freely works with Christ to "bring Christ's faithful to share in communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit."7 Each person of the Trinity has, in many ways, been an example to married couples to give of themselves freely in marriage.
The second Vow of Consent asks the couple if they will love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of their lives. In this vow each person of the Trinity again exemplifies to the husband and wife how they have loved and honored from the beginning of time until the end of time. From the beginning God has revealed Himself to man when He made man in His image and likeness: "calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love."8
The communion of love shared by each person of the Trinity is given to man in and through his creation. This ongoing, never ending communion of love in the Trinity is the communion of love meant to be expressed in the indissoluble marriage.
The bridegroom and bride profess in the third Vow of Consent to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church. This vow asks of each to live a sacrificial life. Accepting children into the marriage requires giving up time and things to allow for a new family member. It may even mean sacrificing in the form of dying to self in certain circumstances. The example each member of the Trinity gives of sacrifice reveals to man the true way of love. God the Father sacrificed His Son for the redemption of the world. What parent, when truly contemplating this, can even imagine the sacrifice He made, knowing He was sending His Son to a certain passion and death? St. Paul explains to husbands in Ephesians 5:25 that they are asked to "love there wives as Christ loved the Church." Husbands have the great calling to be Christ in their marriage, even to the point of dying for their wives. This may not necessarily mean a complete physical death, but more specifically, a dying of self each and every day. The Holy Spirit aids man in this sacrifice. Romans 5:5 reminds us "...God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." The love and communion meant to flow through the marriage of husband and wife is embodied in the Trinity and shared with all sacramentally married couples.
"In his fashioning and re-fashioning of Marriage, the Triune God further offers the baptized a way of sharing as creatures in his own union and communion, through the created reality of gender, through sexuality and procreation, through the community of life and love which is found in family."9 The family is very much like an earthly replication of the Trinity in that the husband, wife and children have places in the family similar to the places of the three Divine persons. The husband, like God the Father, had headship over the family. The husband is the origin of the family, replicating God the Father's role in pouring himself into the Son and the Spirit as their origin. This headship, again like God the Father, is one of self-giving, not domination. The husbands authority over his wife "derives entirely from his loving service to her needs, his gift of himself entirely to her... Insofar as he does not do these things, he has no authority over woman whatsoever."10 The analogy of the wife's place in the trinitarian family to Christ's role in the Most Holy Trinity is in receiving the love of the husband and in returning it, with the blessing of God, a third member is created. The Father's love given to the Son and then returned, gives us the Holy Spirit, who "proceeds from the Father and the Son." Pope John Paul II teaches this model of the Trinity being revealed in the family in an address at Williams-Brice Stadium. "...the Church and the family are each in its own way living representations in human history of the eternal loving communion of the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity."11
Pope Paul the VI has given the family a mission from God. "This mission-to be the first and vital cell of society-the family has received from God."12 This mission must be taken seriously by the family because it is the foundation of all of society. The family is the instructor of love and communion for society. When the family models the love of the Trinity, society can not help but be affected. Pope John Paul II explains the "intimate connection" between the family and society:
Just as the intimate connection between the family and society demands that the family be open to and participate in society and its development, so also it requires that society should never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family.
The family and society have complementary functions in defending and fostering the good of each and every human being. But society - more specifically the State - must recognize that 'the family is a society in its own original right' and so society is under a grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity.13
This principle of subsidiarity is where society can, and should, model the love and communion of the Trinity. This principle says that a community of higher order should not interfere with the internal order of a community of a lower order but should support it with a view for the common good. When the self-giving and receiving principles portrayed by each person in the Trinity are lived out in society, with the emphasis on the common good, cultures can become one in solidarity. The evangelist John gave us the goal for all of society in John 17:21 when he said, "that they may all be one, even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." As difficult as it may seem for this to happen in our society today, we can have assurance in the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit who builds up communion in love creates between us a new fraternity and solidarity, a true reflection of the mystery of mutual self-giving and receiving proper to the Most Holy Trinity."14
"The Trinity, the one true God, is a community of Persons eternally bound together in perfect understanding and love. In knowing the mystery of the Trinity, we realize that divine life can be shared, and shared even by us created persons, who as adopted sons and daughters can be brought into the joy of the perfect community."15 Modeling the charity exhibited in the Trinity, first in the marriage, then in the family and finally in society directs man and society to become what God has created them to be.
Copyright 2009 Diane Schwind
Steven Kellmeyer, Sex and the Sacred City (Plano: Bridegroom Press, 2003), 3.
2 Christopher West, The Love That Satisfies (West Chester: Ascension Press, 2007), 10-11.
3 John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (1979), no. 10,
hominis_en.html(accessed April 4, 2009).
4 The Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1996), 28-29.
5 Peter J. Elliot, What God Has Joined...: The Sacramentality of Marriage (Staten Island: Society of St. Paul, 1990)
6 John A. Hardon, The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church
(NewYork: Doubleday, 1981), 108.
7 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 737.
8 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981), 22.
9 Elliott, What God Has Joined..., 41.
10 Kellmeyer, Sex and the City, 21.
11 Pope John Paul II, Address at Williams-Brice Stadium, 1987, http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2BRICE.HTM (accessed April 6, 2009).
12 Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 1965, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651118_apostolicam-actuositatem_en.html (accessed April 6, 2009).
13 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 70.
14 Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 1995, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html, (accessed April 6, 2009), 76.
15 Donald W. Wuerl, et al., eds., The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults: (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 2005), 153.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticanan, second edition, 1997.
The Pontifical Council for the Family. The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1996.
Elliot, Peter J.. What God Has Joined...: The Sacramentality of Marriage. Staten Island: Society of St. Paul, 1990.
Hardon, John A. The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1981.
Kellmeyer, Steven. Sex and the Sacred City. Plano: Bridegroom Press, 2003.
Pope John Paul II. Address at Williams-Brice Stadium. 1987. [online]. available from http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2BRICE.HTM. (accessed April 6, 2009).
Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae. 1995. [online]. available from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp- ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html. (accessed April 6, 2009).
Pope John Paul II. Familiaris Consortio. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981.
Pope John Paul II. Redemptor Hominis. 1979. [online]. available from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp- ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis_en.html. (accessed April 4, 2009).
West, Christopher. The Love That Satisfies. West Chester: Ascension Press, 2007.
Wuerl, Donald W., Ronald Lawler, Thomas Comerford Lawler and Kris D. Stubna, eds., The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults: Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 2005.
About the Author
We welcome guest contributors who graciously volunteer their writing for our readers. Please support our guest writers by visiting their sites, purchasing their work, and leaving comments to thank them for sharing their gifts here on CatholicMom.com. To inquire about serving as a guest contributor, contact editor@CatholicMom.com.