The Trinity: The Model (for the) Family

durer trinity

The Solemnity of the Trinity. One of the days priests and deacons most dread to preach on. I’m no preacher, but hey: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

There is an understanding of the Trinity that has stuck with me since I first learned it.

One but three. Three but one. Procession, generation, notions, consubstantiality, the works. All of reality wrapped up in one three-Personed, utterly unfathomable Being.

Everything that exists bears the imprint of the Triune Godhead—it can’t not, since all came from and, in essential substance, tends toward that Reality.

This is true of all that has been created, and especially so of we human persons. In our intellect, our free will, and most especially in our ability to love.

“God is love,” John said. What does it mean? Well, Pope Benedict XVI, of course, wrote an entire encyclical on that question, but in essence it means that the entire life of God, the interplay of the Persons—the generation of the Son by the Father, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son—is the give and receive* of love. Everything that happens happens because of that mutual, radical, life-creating love.

In the world we see the Trinity imprinted most especially in the nuclear family. Man and woman make a mutual commitment of radical, self-sacrificial love before God and man. But this pledge is not just a contractual thing or mutual agreement of good thoughts and good times or just a merging of households and bank accounts. This pledge is a total mutual commitment of one’s self to the other’s self to have, hold, love, trust, support, aid, and hopefully get each other to heaven.

Humanity alone among creation is both spirit and body. We are not merely bodies with an incidental soul like the brutes, nor are we purely souls forced to pilot a meaningless body until it drops dead: we are a union of flesh and spirit and are not who or what we were created to be if that union is sundered. So if we pledge our entire selves, that must include every part of ourselves. Thus enters into the equation the sexuality of our bodies.

The love between a husband and wife is expressed quintessentially in the unitive conjugal act. Both the husband and wife give and receive in the conjugal act, joining together as one flesh in two persons.

But since God is love, and God’s love is a life-giving reality, and the unity of the spouses being the most radical expression of human love that God created, the glory of the spousal conjugal act does not end at the unity of the spouses: it ends in the generation of a new, third, unique person. That new person embodies the love of the husband and wife, now father and mother. That new person, if you will, is the love between the spouses.

God wrote his own inner life of life-creating love into the life of love of married spouses. The Father and the Son love one another so intensely that the love between them is the Holy Spirit, a third, distinct Person. The husband and wife love each other so intensely that in in their union they produce a third person, a child.  The conjugal act between a husband and wife is the most sacred action on earth that non-ordained persons can effect. God gave to us on earth the ability to model His own most intimate life in heaven.

This also is why the spousal conjugal act is reduced to “sex,” as though it is just a contact sport or a game we play to satisfy ourselves that means no more than shaking hands. It is among the most attacked, reduced, torn down, mutilated, abused, misunderstood, and misused gifts of God. Adultery. Same-sex marriage. Pornography. Contraception. Casual sex. Domestic violence. Masturbation. “Friends with benefits.”

Destroy man’s notion of himself as made to be “little less than a god” and all that that means, and you destroy man.

So remember your dignity. That you are made in the image and likeness of God and are called to image the life of God in your person in all your ways and actions.


*receive, not take. Lovers never take, but receive with gentleness, waiting for what the loved is willing to give, receiving in holy humility what is given as the most precious gift this side of the Eucharist.


Categories:Culture Marriage Pro-Life Theology

  • Kevin

    Mmm Blessed John Paul II’s new personalism strikes a familiar tone here. St. John of the Cross’s poetry on this subjective is absolutely wonderful.

    The only problem I forsee with such an outlook is not intrinsic, but in terms of its consequences. Many now look at faith first from an experiential perspective… but perhaps that was happening before JP2’s philosophy and new personalism is just a way of “meeting people where they are” without being heretical. Anyways, good post!



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