Photo: The Holy Trinity by Pieter Coecke Van Aelst (1527-1559)
Part 3: St. Faustina and the Secret of the Holy Trinity
Robert Stackpole Answers Your Divine Mercy Questions
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jul 28, 2010)
After Holy Communion I communicated for a while with the heavenly Father. My soul was drawn into the glowing center of love. I understood that no exterior works could stand comparison with the pure love of God. ... I saw the joy of the Incarnate word, and I was immersed in the Divine Trinity. When I came to myself, longing filled my soul, and I yearned to be united with God. ...
I understood the spiritual espousal of a soul with God, which has no exterior manifestation. It is a purely interior act between the soul and God. This grace has drawn me into the very burning center of God's love. I have come to understand His Trinitarian quality and the absolute Oneness of His Being.
— from the Diary of St. Faustina, 1121 and 1020 (emphasis added)
In this third part of our series on the Holy Trinity, we are ready to see what St. Faustina meant by the "burning" and "glowing center of love" in the Holy Trinity: the key to the mystery of God's Tripersonal Being.
As we saw last week, according to Scripture and Sacred Tradition, God must not be seen as a solitary heavenly being, as if sitting alone on the heavenly throne by Himself. In St. John's vision of the heavenly Kingdom, recorded in the last chapter of the Bible, he sees "the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1), in other words, the Spirit of God flowing eternally from the Father and the Son.
Thus, God's own inner life, in a mysterious way, is Tripersonal. God is not a solitary person. Rather, from all eternity, from everlasting to everlasting, before He ever made the universe, and even if He had never made any universe at all, God already knew what it was like to love; in fact, He already enjoyed the fullness of perfect love — love given, love received, and love returned — within His own divine nature. As St. John wrote: "God is love" (1 Jn 4:7). "Love" is what God is by definition; in other words, perfect Love is going on within the divine nature all the time. It is not something God just chooses to do now and then. In His own eternal, infinite Being, therefore, God was never one solitary person, but always Three divine Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — united forever in mutual, self-giving love.
As C.S. Lewis once wrote, their unity is like the unity among dancers who are moving to the same song in perfect harmony and perfect self-giving. Even so, the Three Persons share eternal joys, cooperate in divine purposes, and manifest together every divine perfection: an eternal dance of love among the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.
If God is a Holy Trinity defined in this way — a Trinity of eternal, perfect love — then this doctrine also tells us something important about why God created the world. He obviously did not create the world because He needed to, as if to cure Himself of His own loneliness, or to fulfill some unrealized potential in His own nature for loving relationship. God didn't need to do any such thing, for He already knew what loving personal relationship was like — love given, love received, and love returned.
God already enjoyed the perfect fulfillment of loving relationship within His own nature, in the Trinity. Then if God did not need to create us, why did He do so? It can only be because He wanted to share His perfect love with creatures: He wanted to create beings who could take part, each one in its own way, in His perfect divine love, and enjoy it by joining in the dance!
Other religious faiths (such as Judaism and Islam) share our belief that there is One God. But what they fail to see is that if God is, as they hold, one single divine Person, then He cannot be said to have the attribute of perfect Love. For before such a God made the world, and apart from His relationship with the world, He would not have known the joy and perfection of loving personal relationship. Thus, in Himself, such a God could not be called the God of Love; He would only be "potentially loving," for He would need to create a world in order to have something or someone to love. And even in His love relationship with the world, such a God would never know the perfect joy of having His love fully received and fully returned, something that finite creatures, even the best of them, could never do. Only divine Persons can fully receive infinite divine Love, and infinitely return it. In short, a unipersonal God would be a "needy" God: a divine being who created the world in order to fulfill His own potentials for loving personal relationship, and never quite succeeded. This hardly matches the Biblical witness to the infinite majesty, glory, and holiness of God!
On the other hand, if, as Christianity teaches, from everlasting to everlasting God is perfect Love within Himself, if He enjoys the perfection of personal relationship within His own eternal Being, if He is not one solitary person but Three Divine Persons united in self-giving love and sharing all the divine perfections, then it follows that God did not create us out of any selfish need of His own, but out of selfless generosity: out of an overflow, so to speak, of His Trinitarian love. He created us so that we might one day share in the same interpersonal love that makes up His own eternal joy. For it is the same divine love that eternally binds the Three into One, and it is the same Trinitarian Love that called us into being and invites us now to join in the dance.
Perhaps now we can begin to understand what St. Faustina meant when she wrote that coming to know the secret of the Trinity involves being "drawn into the glowing center of love," when one is "immersed in the Divine Trinity." But, she also added: "I do not know how to express this in words."
In that respect, I know just how she feels! For how can any person communicate to another solely in words the mystery of the Holy Trinity? If it was hard for a saint like Faustina to do so, it is even harder for me! In a similar way, how could someone adequately communicate to another person, just in words, what it is like to dance? The only ones who truly come to know that secret are those who join in the dance themselves.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.