community: the fruit of communion
If someone were to ask you to say something about the Trinity in a sentence or two, what would you say? I have spent many hours sitting in classes studying the Trinity, and I’m not even sure how I would begin.
Some people think that the doctrines of the Church, celebrated in the major feasts of the Church, are ‘optional extras’. These people might say that it is not essential to know what is meant by the doctrine of the Trinity (or the Ascension or Assumption etc).
Here is an analogy that you might find useful.
One of our parishioners was telling me last week about the assistant priest at Hawarden (many years ago), who was instructed to take the car and go to Cheviot to celebrate Mass. The assistant was not prepared to admit that he had never driven a car before, so he boldly went out, got into the car, started it, and drove to Cheviot for Mass.
After Mass he was telling the Cheviot parishioners how difficult and slow the journey was, and how much noise the engine made. It became obvious to all that he had driven all the way in first gear.
To drive a distance in first gear is possible. You may even reach your destination. But how much more helpful to learn from someone who knows, about the advantages of second gear, reverse gear, and about the benefits of using the clutch!
A baptised Catholic is the heir to the fullness of Christian life. Much of this life is conveyed in the revelation of faith communicated by doctrines and teachings of the Church. If we listen to the Tradition of faith that explains the Trinity, we are feeding from the source of revelation; we are also drinking from the reservoir of the wisdom of holy men and women who have known God intimately.
To refer back to the analogy for a moment. It is possible to discover the reality of the Trinity in my own relationship with God (since the doctrine is not simply a human creation). But why not move out of first gear right now and receive as a fact of faith, the Church doctrine of the reality of the inner life of God that is the Trinity.
The inner life of God, the three persons of the Trinity, is not simply a ‘community’ of divine persons. The inner life of God is a communion. This distinction has wonderful implications for us. In every earthly situation, people try to create community. This is both a healthy desire, and (more often than not) very hard work. We either fail, or manage only a temporary sense of togetherness.
It is not the primary task of a Catholic parish to create community among parishioners. While this is a well-intentioned goal, we will always struggle and fail. We will never achieve any more than can be found in any ‘secular community’ group.
The goal of a parish community is to settle for nothing less than a personal and communal life of communion with God.
When we live every moment ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’, we open ourselves to participation in the divine life of the Trinity which is a communion of persons.
This divine communion, is the answer to every heart-felt human desire. This communion with the fullness of the reality of God, a communion of persons, has the immediate fruit of creating human community at a deeper and more satisfying level than any human attempt could every achieve.
May the life of our growing parish community be the fruit of the communion that is the Trinity.