Chapter talk by Fr Michael

The Trinity and Our Prayer Life                     Chapter Talk  11 June, 2017

This morning I would like to touch on the mystery of the Trinity and our life of prayer. Today is a Solemnity and we can see it as just one more such feasts in the Church year, a great mystery to be celebrated but not having a lot to do with our everyday lives. Our early Cistercian Fathers saw it as having far more significance, a mystery we are living with the whole of our lives, touching them deeply by what is there revealed to us.

What I see William of St Thierry and St Bernard doing as well as the more modern writer Catherine LaCugna in her book, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian life, is turning our celebration of this mystery from being an abstract and hidden doctrine into an expression that is close to home, expressing our own and others’ inner experience of God.

The great danger, as the Benedictine Odo Brooke brings out is:

“that we think of the Trinity too exclusively in terms of the Processions within themselves and of the speculative theological problems arising from the mystery of three persons in  one identical nature. However important this is for theology, if the Trinity is viewed almost entirely from this angle, it will inevitable appear remote from the lives of the faithful. The perspective is changed once it is realized that Revelation presents the Trinity first of all as the intervention of the [three] persons for our salvation, according to the relationship ‘from the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit to the Father.’ ..In Scripture and in the Liturgy, the Trinity is presented not only with an emphasis on the intervention in the history of salvation, but also on the persons in their distinct relationship rather than on their unity of nature. ”

Once we begin to focus on the relationship of the three person of the Holy Trinity it is not long before we see the value of this relationship in our own lives and in all of our contacts with others. We come to see as Odo Brooke goes on to say that:

“the spiritual life at its deepest level is seen as an experience of the Trinitatian life of the  Holy Spirit. Mysticism is here shown to us not primarily as an advance in states of prayer to be analyzed and charted. It is shown as the ultimate meaning of the human being, and that meaning is to be found in the Trinity.”

What William of St Thierry and other early Cistercians saw was that the image of God in us is the very basis of our relationship and ascent to God. We have the imprint of the Trinity in our very makeup, in our very nature. As Brooke points out the whole trend of William’s thought “is to portray the image [of  God in us] as a dynamic force, impelling the soul towards its perfection in the likeness [of God]… towards union with the Trinity.”

William goes so far as to say in his work Aenigma Fidei that “those to whom the Father and the Son reveal each other know exactly as the Father and the Son know each other.” About this Odo Brooke adds:

“This knowledge is from the Holy Spirit; more, it is a share in the very life of the Spirit. It comes wholly from within the Spirit; and it is a stage of transition from faith to sight. It is an anticipation, however remote, of the final vision of God.”

Our life as Christians, as monks is to make us ever more attentive and attuned to this life of the Spirit, to the realization that nothing escapes the movement of grace in our daily lives. Wherever we may be, whether in our rooms, in Choir, at our places of work, in the kitchen, we are in God’s presence, in the presence of a God who deeply loves us and is continually inviting us to share in the very life of the Trinity itself.