NOTE: This was originally published 9/13/2011.
Now that I'll be teaching CCD, I'm going to need a test-run for all my lesson plans. Oh, blogosphere, prepare to don fur and become my guinea pigs!
My first lesson is to be on the Trinity. What is the Trinity? Does the Trinity have roots in Scripture? How come Jews only believe in ONE God, but we believe in three that add up to ONE God? I mean, 1+1+1=3, right? So what's that all about, anyway?
Ah... I love it! Delving right into the nitty-gritty!
Anyway, in starting with the Trinity, I realized I'd actually have to back it up and start with the importance of our Jewish roots. Since one of the main arguments against the dogma of the Trinity is that there is only "One" God and there can't be "3 Persons" we need to trace the language back all the way to the Old Testament, which was passed along (and subsequently written) in Hebrew.
So when we dig our ways back to the OT, we realize that there are two words to describe "oneness" in the Hebrew Bible. The first is "echad" which echoes a pluralistic singular. For example, when Moses comes down to explain the Commandments to the Jews, the people pledge loyalty to God's Word "in one (echad) voice." Obviously one person doesn't stand up and say "Yeah, Moses! We'll totally abide by the Commandments!" All the Jews, collectively, gave their consent to the Word of God. Thus, though singular, the word "echad" alludes to a plurality that creates the singular.
This word, "echad," is different from the Hebrew word "yachid." Yachid also references "oneness" but pretty much translates to "only." It refers to a literal, numeric singularity. For example, "yachid" is used in the story of Abraham and Isaac. When God asks that Abraham take his one and only (yachid) son by Sarah, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice, God was specific. Isaac was the only son Abraham had by Sarah, so there can be no confusion regarding the value of "one."
See the difference? Nowhere in the Bible does the Hebrew betray this plurality of God. Each time God is spoken of, the word "echad" is used. Why? Jews accepted God the Father as well as His Spirit who descended to create the world. Finally, they awaited the Son of God who would come to redeem them as the promised Messiah. So though they didn't believe in a doctrine of a triune God, all the pieces of the puzzle were present. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, came and put those pieces together for us.
And put those pieces together He did!
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs us with the words "In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Naming each part of the Trinity under the singular of "name" and imparting the equality of their Divine Natures establishes this dogma for us. Epistles from Sts. Peter and Paul expound and support this.
So the Trinity does exist in the Old (and New!) Testament(s), but in order to understand that, we must first understand our Jewish heritage.
This also explains why our new translations (starting the first Sunday of Advent) refers to God with plural verbs. :)
Regarding tangible expressions of the Trinity, I'll be falling back on St. Patrick's "3 leaf clover" analogy as well as a personal "perfume" analogy gifted to me this summer. I was contemplating melting 3 different colored candles together into one giant candle, then asking the children to attempt separating the wax, but I realized that'd end up taking way too long and would probably get really messy really fast. Ah well...
I'll also be keeping John Godfrey Saxe's poem "The Blind Men and the Elephant" up my sleeve for when we get into the ability of 2 men to see the same God and come away with 2 VERY different visions of Him. I might even have them draw / color in their own elephants...
My friend and I were discussing wedding attire since we both had celebrations to attend this weekend. When I pointed out I'd be wearing a long dress, she asked me why (especially because it was supposed to be hot).
I pointed out that I typically choose to wear longer dresses to weddings because it feels proper to me. I like shorter dresses. They're fine for folks to wear. I'll wear them to weddings, too, especially if I know it's going to be unbearably hot. However, I tend to prefer longer gowns if I can suffer through the heat because I believe in the Presence of God that participates in a very special way during weddings.
She shrugged and said, "But isn't your wedding outside? It's not in a Church."
I affirmed she was right, but it doesn't really matter where a marriage takes place. The couple makes their vows before God and man. God is intrinsically present during a marriage because sacramental marriage is one of His most precious gifts to humanity. It is through marriage that a husband and wife most closely resemble the Holy Trinity - God, Himself. This is even true of a priest. A priest is not "God-like" even during Consecration. In fact, during Consecration, he hands his body over to become a vessel for Christ. For a married couple, however, their charge is to emulate the Trinity. That's huge!
Just as the Father and Son are one, so too are husband and wife. Just as the Father and Son bring forth the Spirit through their Love, so too do husband and wife bring forth children through their love. The Trinity is, quite truly, a family. Obviously Theirs is a divine relationship that we cannot begin to fathom, but through the marital bond, we come to understand this relationship a bit more.
Because this Sacrament is calling us to such a holy and divine emulation, God is joyously present at the union of two souls.
Do not think for a second that just because you see two bodies still before you after vows that their souls are not linked. What God joins at the altar through the free consent of his children, no one can separate. It would be easier for you to melt two white candles together into one only to separate them once again.
God takes delight in the souls who find joy in one another. So of course He is present when two souls take the step of coming together in such a sacred way.
Thus, I take care to dress in a way fitting His Presence. Long gown with shoulders and back covered is typically the route I go. The dress I chose fit her color scheme (spring-ish) but since it was a bit more showy of my shoulders and back, I wore a shawl throughout the ceremony and blessing. Only after these parts did I dare remove the shawl.
So that's what I tend to keep in mind when dressing for weddings (aside from the obvious "Don't Wear White and Don't Wear a Tiara" rules). God is going to be present, and He's going to be SUPER giddy that two of His beloved children are vowing to live the rest of their lives in a way that more closely resembles Him.
He's coming decked out with Divine Graces. The least I can do is be somewhat presentable, ya know? *Grin*
A recent comment from a friend of mine has led me to this entry. He chooses to use a feminine pronoun for God. That's well and good. Considering his reasoning, it makes sense. God is tender, compassionate and merciful, and he feels as though these attributes have a feminine ring to them. Plus, considering that pronouns do little justice to the all-encompassing Spirit that is God, why not give some air-time to an under-utilized pronoun such as "she."
That's fair. I'm not writing this to alter his opinion on the matter. I thought it an interesting topic to delve into, so here I go!
Why do I choose to use "He" when referencing God?
For one, Christ is male. He (and all His Jewish ancestors before Him) referred to God using masculine words, and all parables which describe God use male persons as corresponding symbols: father, bridegroom, rabbi, king, judge.
Why might that be? After all, in Genesis, it does say God made humans "male and female" after His own image, right? Does that mean God is a hermaphrodite?
Not so much.
We humans tend to think of everything on a physical realm because we're physical beings. However, we're also spiritual beings, having been gifted souls that are intrinsically united to our bodies. Our souls contain the neshama of God. THAT is the the part of God that makes us "like unto Him." That's the part that separates us from the rest of creation.
Since God's neshama is neither male nor female (it is simply a gift of His Being - specifically His Wisdom and Power to understand and choose good over evil), that phrase in Genesis isn't referring to a physical likeness of God. It's referring to a spiritual likeness in which humans are granted a very specific dignity.
The best way of explaining this that I've seen comes from the Catholic Patriot. He wrote:
I might not agree with all that Catholic Patriot has to say on this subject, but I think the above succinctly captures my thoughts in a better way than I could. :)
Try as we might to label God, we can't do Him justice because our minds are simply not equipped with handling it. However, we've been given little glimpses here and there of what our God deems Himself to be, so far be it from me to go against the examples He laid forth through that of His Son - and His Son's reciprocal teachings of His "Father."
In a nutshell, that is why I choose masculine pronouns.
I mean, there's also things like the Blessed Mother being daughter, spouse and mother of God as well, but that's another conversation for another time. :)
For Good Friday, I was lucky enough to find a parish that offered Confession for two hours before noon.
The church was barren, save for an empty wooden cross crowned with a ring of thorns. I wanted to kiss the cross as I waited for confession, but it was in the sanctuary so I could not.
This church had also removed all the kneelers which I thought was interesting. I didn't mind kneeling on the floor and thought it was a good idea that we could now offer up this slight mortification in union with Christ.
All the fonts were either empty of draped in purple. It almost felt wrong that the sunlight poured in through the gorgeous stained glass windows. Did nature somehow forget that Jesus was suffering death? Did the sun forget that we were to remember His Passion today?
No - nature didn't forget. That same sun shone down upon Christ as He followed the Via Dolorosa. That burning sun tried so hard to light His way... to warm His Body that must've been shivering dreadfully for lack of Blood. It poured its rays of warmth over Our Lady to offer her even the simplest of condolences. It offered itself to the people - the same people who angrily kicked, spit upon and mocked the Savior. If the sun could think, would it have let loose torrential solar flares in an effort to enlighten these ignorant people that they were cruelly murdering the innocent and mighty Hand of Creation? Would it have spun faster to strengthen its gravitational pull in order to pull its God closer to itself in a protective embrace?
That sun - our sun - was the same sun that shone down on Christ's hanging Body upon the Cross. It didn't forget... maybe it just knows better than we do the power of Christ's resurrection and wants to remind us that though our hearts are black with grief, His Light will prevail and will work Itself into even the darkest of tombs.
Then I began thinking about Our Lady and the grief she must've carried along that same trail of tears. To stand at the foot of His Cross and to fully understand that this was the Sacrifice she was born to offer in union with Her Son... incredible. The same Baby she cradled in her arms and nursed at her breast... the same Child who picked her wild flowers and proudly crafted His first wood project into a gift for her... the same Man who she watched heal, love and unite - now she watched His final, passionate act of Love during His earthly Life.
I cannot even imagine that pain. When I think of the Blessed Mother and the other women who were forced to watch their children be sacrificed (for early martyrs, this was common- to endure witnessing the torture and death of your children before being killed yourself) my heart nearly stops. My breath always catches because as a mother, I cannot help but put Vincent's face on each of those children. I cannot help but imagine my own indescribable terror, pain and fury as I was shackled to a wall to endure Vincent's agonizing torture, unable to help, comfort or avenge him. Would I be able to offer our suffering up to God as Mary did?
And I do think of this often. I can't help myself, especially with the increasing amounts of political pressure being built up against the Catholics not only in this country, but all around the world.
It's no secret that Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world (actually, it might be in the US where many assume it's Islam). Also, since I subscribe to VOM's monthly newsletter, the reality of this problem is often in my thoughts.
My husband has often questioned why I continue reading these things as they tend to make me upset. I respond that my ignorance doesn't help, and at the very least, these folks deserve to have people aware of their plight... even if the only thing we can do is offer prayers for them. I'm not willing to ignore the suffering of others in order to spare myself a few sleepless nights. It doesn't seem right.
I won't lie - there have been times where I've wanted to put down books or newsletters. I've wanted to ignore particular headlines because of the emotional stress I'd end up with, but I typically end up reading on. I have to. How would I feel if someone ignored me? How would I feel if someone had the ability to help me and shut the door because it was just "too painful" to even acknowledge my pain's existence?
It's why I forced myself to endure learning about the different methods of abortion. For weeks I'd burst into tears, dropping to my knees to beg God to force us to stop these heinous murders. I didn't care if that meant the world would end, I just wanted the suffering of these innocent children to stop. This was actually during a period that John tried "forbidding" me from accessing the internet. Heh - he knew he couldn't really forbid me, and I doubt he wanted to, but he was so upset for me that he didn't know what else to do. He didn't understand why I kept trying to learn more about abortions. He said, "You know they happen, and you learning about how they happen isn't going to make abortions happen less."
I said, "You're right. My understanding won't stop abortions because I already made the decision to never participate, but I bet if others who haven't made that decision learned about abortion it would happen less!"
And it's true - so many people who are "pro-choice" really don't understand all that goes into an actual abortion. For all the philosophical waxing pro-choicers do, they never once get into the hard-science of what an abortion physically does to both a child and the mother who carries it.
But I digress. Sorry!
Back to Good Friday. After confession, I went to my own Church for the silent prayer before the Crucifix before 3pm when the statue was veiled. I tried to imagine how God the Father felt - He willingly handed Jesus over. He understood that His Sacrifice was necessary, but the cost! How much He loves us to do this!
Would I be willing to hand over Vincent for such a slaughter?
I mean, let's say that 1 million people were in jail. I'm not talking about the US jail system that allows inmates to watch TV, hang out in a cell, and be provided with 3 meals a day.
No... I'm talking about a hellish, hard labor camp akin to Auschwitz or worse.
Now let's say these million people aren't just random strangers... they're family. Yes, they are family that's guilty of every offense possible ranging from cursing all the way through murder, but they're family. Would I be willing to sacrifice Vincent for the lot of them?
Let's take it one step further... let's say these million family members aren't just distance relationships. They're a million Maria's and Shannon's... a million Raymond's and yes, even a million Evelyn's... my true brothers and sisters. What then? Would I be willing to hand Vincent over to save them?
And finally - even more than being my brothers and sisters - what if they were my children? What if these jailed souls were my children? Would I be able to hand over Vincent, my first, only and beloved son over for a torturous death so that they might be freed from jail?
What if I knew that even if I offered Vincent's life for theirs that they'd ridicule our sacrifice? That they'd scorn him?
How could God the Father ever consent to this sacrifice??? How could Christ, knowing full well what the future would hold for His wayward children???
Yes, we indeed crucified the entire Trinity that first Good Friday. We continue to crucify Them each time we are negligent in our duties as Christians... as dignified human beings made in His Image.
May God have mercy on us, and may we remember the Love shown to us through the truest Sacrifice ever made.
I have two rosaries that I typically use for everything. I used to have three, but I'm waiting to purchase a new Rosary for the Unborn (since I lost mine on the airplane back from Jamaica - bah).
I digress... as usual. *Blush*
The first is my Confirmation rosary. I was given this simple white rosary by my Aunt Bernadette (both my Godmother and sponsor) back in 7th grade when I was confirmed. I had it socked away in a drawer for years, but since my reversion, it's never been far from my side.
I chose that rosary to take with me on my trip to Treasures of the Church, though, which meant I got to touch it to almost 200 1st class relics. From that night on, anytime I pray with that rosary, I feel it's perfectly acceptable to ask all the saints I venerated to pray along with me. I'm sure they're only too happy to oblige.
Anyway, last night I said my prayers downstairs so as not to wake up John (who had gone up to bed an hour earlier). Since I keep my Confirmation rosary next to my bed, I reached into my purse to use the one my mother gave me for Christmas. It's a beautiful birthstone rosary with lavender pearls and amethyst beads. The Crucifix and center piece are by far the nicest I've ever seen.
As I pull the beautiful rosary from my purse, I realize that I can't fairly ask the saints to pray along with me since I don't have "their" rosary. Mind you, I'm fully aware that they'd pray along with me just the same, because they have no care what's in my hands so long as the prayers are coming from the heart, but I still feel as though that something is missing. This is sort of like Jesus being fully present as I accept Him in the Eucharist vs. Him being fully present in the Eucharist at Adoration. In both instances, He is absolutely fully present. There is, however, a different type of intimacy. I feel the same way about praying with the two rosaries. Both obviously help me in my spiritual development, and both guide me through the meditations of the Rosary / Divine Mercy chaplet, but in uniquely different ways.
So instead of asking the saints to pray along like I normally do, I ask my guardian angel to pray along with me. Whenever I make this request, I always picture a beautiful ethereal being solemnly bowed down in prayer, then rolling his eyes at me for such a foolish request. Of COURSE he'd pray with me. He'd do it regardless, and probably tries to coax me into doing it more myself!
But I ask anyway, because I don't want him to feel left out or think that I don't appreciate his presence. So off we begin our prayers when a thought enters into my mind:
"Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in their midst.” (Matt 18:20)
Welp... me and my guardian angel make two, right? So I wondered if Jesus was hovering around us somewhere. As I made my way through an Our Father, I realized that not only was Jesus present, I was SPEAKING HIM!
Jesus is the Word of God, right? He is the Word of God incarnated, but the Word of God nonetheless. The words of the Our Father were given to us straight from Jesus, Himself, so that's about as "Word of God" as it gets. In the state of prayer, in acknowledging His Presence, I understand that I SPEAK His Presence. He really was present with us as not only were His Words being used... His Will was being done through those prayers.
The Holy Spirit was kind to me with that little nugget of illumination. When I acknowledged that, too, I realized that the Trinity does fully exist with, for and in one another. One can never be without the Others. As soon as I realized that I was speaking Christ's Presence, I realized it was the Holy Spirit who placed that thought in my head. I realized then it was the Will of the Father being done through the simple action of reciting His Words granted through Jesus, His Son.
This is another reason why prayer is so important. This is proof that not only do we talk to God, God speaks directly back to us... just not necessarily in the ways we expect or are used to.
So make use of your guardian angels! I hear they like that sorta thing... *wink.*
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