INSTRUCTION FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY TRINITY,
by Leonard Goffine, 1871
This festival comes just after Pentecost, because as soon as they were instructed and consoled by the Holy Ghost, the apostles began in the name of the Holy Trinity openly to teach and to preach that which Christ had taught them.
Why is this festival celebrated?
That we may openly profess our faith in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is the first of Christian truths, the foundation of the Christian religion, and the most sublime of all our mysteries; and that we may render thanks to each of the three Divine Persons for that which they have done for our salvation; for the Father has created us, the Son has redeemed us, and the Holy Ghost has sanctified us.
In praise and honor of the most Holy Trinity, the Church sings in the Introit of this day’s Mass: Blessed be the Holy Trinity and Undivided Unity, which we honor, having seen the shining of its glory. (Tob. xii.) O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earth! (Ps. viii. 1.) Glory be to the Father, &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Almighty and Eternal God, who hast given to Thy servants, that in the profession of the true faith they may know the glory of the Eternal Trinity, and in the power of that glory adore its unity: grant, that by our firmness in this same faith, we may be protected from all adversities. Through, &c.
EPISTLE. (Rom. xi. 33 – 36.) O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made Him? For of Him, and by Him, and in Him are all things: to Him be glory forever. Amen.
EXPLANATION. St. Paul’s wonderment, in this epistle, is caused by the inscrutable judgment of God in rejecting the Jews and calling the gentiles. The Church avails herself of these expressions of St. Paul, to express her reverential astonishment at this incomprehensible mystery of the most Holy Trinity, which surpasses our understanding, and yet is the worthy object of our faith, our hope, and our love. But although neither angels nor men can fathom and comprehend this mystery, and although he who tries to comprehend it, must fear of being overcome by it, it cannot be difficult for the sound human intellect to believe it, since it is indubitably and evidently revealed by God, and we in many natural and human things accept for true and certain much that we cannot comprehend. Let us submit our intellect, therefore, and yield ourselves up to the faith; as there was indeed a time when men were martyred, when even all ages and conditions preferred to die rather than for one instant let this faith go, so let us rather wait until our faith is changed to contemplation, until we see the Triune God, face to face, as It is, and in the sight of that countenance become eternally happy. There should all our hopes, wishes, and desires be directed, and we should cease all fruitless investigations, endeavoring by humble faith and active love, to prove worthy of It’s blissful contemplation; for if we do not love Him who is our all, our last end and aim, and lovingly desire Him, we will have no hope of one day possessing Him.
ASPIRATION. O incomprehensible, Triune God! O Abyss of wisdom, power, and goodness! To Thee all glory and adoration! In Thee I lose myself; I cannot contain Thee, do Thou contain me. I believe in Thee, though I cannot comprehend Thee; do Thou increase my faith; I hope in Thee, because I have promised myself all good from Thee; do Thou enliven my hope; I love Thee, because Thou art worthy of all love; do Thou inflame ever more my love, that in Thy love I may live and die. Amen.
GOSPEL. (Matt, xxviii. 18 – 20.) And Jesus coming spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and on earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold. I am with you all days even unto the consummation of the world.
EXPLANATION. As God, Christ had, from all eternity, all and the same power that His Father had; as man, He has this same power by the union of His divinity with His humanity, and on account of the infinite merits of His passion. In virtue of this power, He said to His apostles, before the ascension, that, as His Heavenly Father had sent Him, even so He sent them to all nations, without exception, to teach all that He had commanded, and to receive them, by means of baptism, into the Church; at the same time He promised to be with them to the end of the world, that is, that He would console them in sufferings, strengthen them in persecution, preserve them from error, and always protect them and their successors, the bishops and priests, even unto the consummation of the world.
ASPIRATION. Be with us, O Lord, for without Thee our pastors cannot produce fruit, nor their hearers accomplish any thing from their words. Be with us always, for we always need Thy help. All power is given to Thee, Thou hast, then, the right to command, and we are bound to obey Thy commands, which, by Thy Church, Thou hast made known to us. This we have promised in baptism, and now before Thy eyes, we renew those vows. Grant, now, that those promises which without Thee we could not have made, and without Thee cannot keep, may be fulfilled in our actions. Leave us not to ourselves, but be Thou with us, and make us obedient to Thee, that by cheerful submission to Thee, we may receive happiness.
INSTRUCTION ON THE RENEWAL OF BAPTISMAL VOWS
All the dignities and graces which we receive in holy baptism, God secures to us for the future, but only on the condition that we keep our baptismal vows. Every Christian in baptism makes a bond with God through the mediation of Christ who has sealed it with His blood. This bond consists on man’s part in the promise to renounce forever the devil and all his works, and all his pomps, that is, constantly to suppress the threefold lust of the eyes, the flesh, and the pride of life, by which the devil leads us to sin, and to believe all that God has revealed, and that His holy Church proposes to our belief, and diligently and properly to make use of all the means of salvation flowing from the Church. On God’s part this bond consists in cleansing us from all sin, in bestowing all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, in adopting us as His children, and in the assurance of the inheritance of heaven. This bond should last till death; it is never broken by the infinitely true and faithful God, but so often by weak and fickle man, who is too often inclined to break it, and should, therefore, in compliance with the desire of the Church, often remind himself of it, and from time to time renew it in the sight of God. This should be particularly done before receiving the holy Sacrament of Confirmation, before first Communion, on the vigils of Easter and Pentecost, at the blessing of baptismal water, on the anniversaries of baptism and confirmation, before making any solemn vow, before entering into matrimony, when in danger of death. This renewal of baptismal vows can be made in the following manner: Placing ourselves in the presence of God, we kneel down, fold our hands, and say with fervent devotion:
I believe in God the Father, Almighty Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born and suffered.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
I renounce the devil, all his works, and all his pomps.
Christ Jesus! With Thee I am united, to Thee alone I cling, Thee only will I follow, for Thee to live, for Thee to die is my desire. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
DOCTRINE OF THE THREE IN ONE GOD
What is God?
God is of Himself the most perfect being, the highest, best good, who exists from all eternity, by whom heaven and earth are created, and from whom all things derive and hold life and existence, for of Him, and by Him, and in Him are all things. (Rom. xi. 36.)
What is the Blessed Trinity?
The Blessed Trinity is this same one God who exists in one single nature and substance, and at the same time in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Is each of these three persons God?
Yes, because each of them has the divine nature and substance.
Are they not three Gods?
No, because all three of these persons have one and the same divine nature and substance.
Is any one of these three persons older, mightier, or greater than the others?
By no means, for they are all three from eternity entirely equal to each other in the divine omnipotence, greatness, and majesty, and must, therefore, be equally adored and venerated.
Ought one to give himself up to the investigation of the most Blessed Trinity?
No; “for,” says the saintly Bishop Martinus, “the mystery of the Trinity cannot be comprehended by the human intellect, no one however eloquent of tongue could exhaust it; if entire books were written about it, so that the whole world were filled with them, yet the unspeakable wisdom of God would not be expressed. God who is indescribable, can in no way be described. When the human mind ceases to speak of Him, then it but begins to speak.” Therefore the true Christian throws his intellect under the feet of faith, not seeking long to understand that which the human mind can as little comprehend, as a tiny hole in the sand can contain the immeasurable sea. An humble and active faith will make us worthy some day in the other world, to see with the greatest bliss this mystery as it is, for in this consists eternal life, that by a pious life we may glorify and know the only true God, Christ Jesus, His Son, and the Holy Ghost.
INSTRUCTION FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST,
on which is celebrated the Feast of the most Holy Trinity.
The Introit of this day’s Mass is an encouragement to confidence in God’s mercy: Lord, I have trusted in thy mercy, my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation, I will sing to the Lord who giveth me good things. How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me? Unto the end? How long dost thou turn away thy face from me? (Ps .xii. 1-6.) Glory be to the Father, &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, the strength of such as hope in Thee: mercifully hear us calling on Thee: and since mortal weakness can do nothing without Thee, grant us the assistance of Thy grace; that in observing Thy commandments, we may please Thee both in will and action. Throu.
EPISTLE. (John iv. 8 – 21.) Dearly Beloved: God is charity. By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by Him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because He hath first loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. My dearest, if God hath so loved us: we also ought to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abideth in us, and His charity is perfected in us. In this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us: because He hath given us of His spirit. And we have seen, and do testify, that the Father hath sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world; whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in Him, and He in God, and we have known, and have believed the charity, which God hath to us. God is charity; and He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in Him. In this is the charity of God perfected in us, that we may have confidence at the day of judgment: because as He is, we also are in this world. Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casteth out fear, because fear hath pain. And he that feareth, is not perfected in charity. Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us. If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother: he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not? And this commandment we have from God, that he, who loveth God, love also his brother.
EXPLANATION. Stronger motives for the love of God and of our neighbor than these cited by St. John, who, because of his ardent love of God, was named the “loved disciple”, cannot be brought. If we but consider and reflect upon them, it is impossible to resist his words. We should be induced to love our neighbor by the love, which God has for him, for whatever God loves is certainly worthy of our love; and we cannot love God, when we do not love our neighbor. “Since your neighbor,” says St. Augustine, “is your brother, and yet you do not love him, how can you love God whose commandment you thus reject?”
GOSPEL. (Luke vi, 36 – 41.) At That Time: Jesus said to His disciples: Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall be given into your, bosom. For with the same measure that you shall mete, withal it shall be measured to you again. And He spoke also to them a similitude: Can the blind lead the blind? do they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one shall be perfect, if he be as his master. And why seest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye; but the beam that is in thy own eye, thou considerest not? or how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seeest not the beam in thy own eye? Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to take out the mote from thy brother’s eye.
Be ye merciful as your Father also is merciful!
If we would be children of the Heavenly Father, we must imitate Him in mercy and goodness; and as He lets His sun shine on the good and the bad, and allows the dew of His grace to fall alike on the just and the unjust, even so must we love not our friends merely, but our enemies also.
Judge not, and you shall not be judged; condemn not, and you shall not be condemned!
Two kinds of judgments are here forbidden by Christ: the rash or presumptuous, and the arrogant judgment. The rash judgment, which is usually a groundless suspicion, is forbidden, because by it the love and honor of our neighbor is injured, for no one can look into the heart, and see the motive of another’s omissions and commissions; of these no one but God can judge, who tries the heart and reins, and knows the intention. The arrogant judgment, is even more to be condemned, and is when one judges another, without any right, as his superior, to do so. By both of these judgments man usurps a right of God, as St. Dorotheus says, takes vengeance from God, and robs himself of all divine protection. “A double, yes, a triple sin it is,” says St. Chrysostom, “to judge another, and without pity draw the beam from his eye.”
Forgive, and you shall be forgiven!
Christ says by this, that we shall receive forgiveness from God for the injuries we have committed against Him, only upon the condition that we from our hearts forgive others their injuries to us. “For,” says St. Chrysostom, “how canst thou raise thy hand to heaven, or move thy tongue and ask forgiveness, when thou wilt not forgive? When thou wishest, that God forgive thy sins, He will not do it, because thou hast an angry feeling towards thy brother.”
Give, and it shall be given to you!
We are poor and greatly need, that God should give to us; and, therefore, like petitioners, we say every day: “Give us this day our daily bread. But God answers us: Give, and it shall be given to you. You are my poor and you have other poor among you, do you then to these poor, as you would that I should do to you. The goodness and love of God should always be our model, although we can never reach it, for between our love and goodness, and the love and goodness of God, there is a manifest difference. We can give but little, while God gives much, but for the little which we give to the poor, God gives us a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. The promise give, and it shall be given to you applies also to all other works which we do for the love of God, for He rewards everything, even the slightest thing done in His name, with infinite bounty and richness, here upon this earth with new graces and benefits, and with eternal glory in heaven.
Can the blind lead the blind?
By these words the Saviour teaches, that no one should rebuke or reproach his neighbor for faults from which he himself is not free, for as the disciple is not above the master, the master ought certainly to be perfect; that one blind person shall not lead another, that the advice may not be required: Cast first the beam, that is, the great faults, out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to take the mote, that is, the small faults, out of thy brother’s eye. The blind who leads another and falls into the ditch, is also he who is led by his carnal desires, and does not permit himself to be led by the light of faith, and guided by the hand of divine grace. This is the most dangerous and most fearful blindness, because it inevitably leads to destruction.
ASPIRATION. O that I had been always good and merciful to my neighbor, that I might also, one day, find grace with God! O that I had never rashly judged any one, that I might, one day, be not strictly judged and condemned by God for my sins! Ah, my God! I regret from my heart these wrongs, and hope forgiveness for them from Thee, as I also from my heart forgive those who have offended me! Enlighten my blindness, O Lord, that I may guard against such sins in future, and not follow the desires of the flesh, that I may find the right path to heaven, and by a good example lead others there. Amen.