Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, October 10, 2011

The Beauty of Mystery

The Beauty of Mystery

As Catholics we meditate often of the great Mysteries of the Faith.  A Mystery is something that has been revealed to us by God, but that we can not fully understand this side of Heaven.  We can know it and we can understand it, but our understanding will never be so complete, no matter how learned or holy we are, that it can not become greater.
          The greatest Mystery of our Faith is the Holy Trinity.  It tells us who God is, that He is three Persons in one God.  We may have spoken to people who do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, in particular, object to it because they say it is ridiculous to imagine that God would be so incomprehensible to us.  It is a barrier to intimacy that God would not want between us.
          This is an interesting argument and one we should examine.  Is it true that the doctrine of the Trinity is so abstract that it makes God incomprehensible and impossible to love intimately?  First, it should be noted that the truth of something does not depend on our ability to understand it.  The principles of calculus are true even though I don’t really understand them.  God has revealed the Trinity to us.  We can know that it is true for that reason.
          However, it is not accurate to say that the Trinity is totally incomprehensible.  To understand it we have to comprehend the difference between a person and a nature.  A nature describes what something is.  A person describes who something is.  We are human beings so we have a human nature.  I can know who you are when you tell me your name, and I can know more about your person the more I get to know you.  The Church speaks to us in broad terms about humanity sometimes because of our shared nature.  There is only one Divine Nature; however, this nature is fully possessed by three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is why we can say there are three Persons but only one God.
          I am quite inadequate to explain this and have not tried to do it comprehensively, but I recommend Frank Sheed’sTheology and Sanity for a wonderful, understandable explanation.  St. Thomas Aquinas and Archbishop Fulton Sheen have also produced works on the subject that I have personally found helpful.
          It remains true, though, that we can not fully understand this Mystery.  We, of course, each have our own human nature, whereas the one Divine Nature is possessed fully by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So are our non-Trinitarian brothers correct?  Does this create a barrier between us and God?  The exact opposite is true.
          Because our understanding of the Trinity will never be complete, we can always grow closer to God.  God has revealed to us the intimate reality of who He is, and we have the blessing of ever being able to deepen our knowledge of Him.
          I have been married for six and a half years.  By now my wife and I know a lot about each other and we are very comfortable in that knowledge.  But I am constantly getting to know her more.  The adventure of those first years and months is not over.  Despite the bond that has been built between us, I can always know her more, and in knowing her more, I can love her more.
          The same is true with God.  I can never say, “Well, I know God completely.  There is nothing more to learn.  I can relax, be complacent, and stagnant.”  Every day is an opportunity to answer God’s call to know Him better.  And the deeper I know Him, the more I can love Him.  Nothing could be more intimate.  Mystery is not an obstacle, it is an opportunity.  The beauty of the Mystery of the Trinity, and all the Mysteries of our Faith, is that until I take my dying breath, I can continue to grow in my love of God.  What a great adventure!