Friendship is an essential part of human existence. If we reflect upon our friendships, we know the joy that they give us. There is a special connection between friends which they both enjoy. It is an unspoken bond which deepens as each becomes more open and accepting of the other. But each person can act negatively towards their friend and decrease their friendship. There is a kind of unspoken set of rules between friends. A kind of code of conduct. At times this is made explicit particularly if one friend has wronged the other. There is also a sense that true friendship goes on forever. There is something eternal about deep friendship. Our friends allow us to be our selves. We can express who we really are with our friends. We feel that we gain something more from our friends than we give. There is a synergy at work, the combination is greater than the parts. We discover who we really are through our friends. We are able to let our defences down and just be ourselves. Our friends confirm who we are, and also indicate when we aren’t being true to who we are. They can see our own goodness and affirm that goodness. They reveal to us we are lovable and acceptable as we are. As we become more true to our friends, we become more true to ourselves. Friendship allows us to have a deeper rest and be rejuvenated by our friends. From this exploration of friendship we draw out several conclusions.
- We need friends if we are to be our true selves.
- There is an unspoken moral code at the heart of friendship which is made explicit if broken.
- There is something divine about friendship, its life giving properties and its eternal nature.
All these reflections are a reflection of the Trinity.
Trinitarian identity comes from their relationship. A husband becomes a father only when he has a child. His identity as a father is the result of his relationship with his child. Without the child, he would not have the identity of being a father. This analogy helps us understand Trinitarian identity. God the Father is the Father because he is the Father of the Son. God the Son is the Son because he is the Son of the Father. Who each person is comes from their relationship. The Father is not just the origin of the Trinity in some impersonal process, but is eternally the Father in a personal relationship with the Son. St. Thomas Aquinas identifies the proper title of the Son as 'Word'. Jesus is the Word of God since he is spoken by the Father. The identity of the Word is relational since any word requires a speaker.
The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit has a divine will of his own and an identity of his own and is not just the spiritual union of the Father and the Son. St Thomas Aquinas identifies the title of the Holy Spirit as 'Love'. This obviously relational word properly designates his identity and relationship.
Each person totally gives of themselves and this giving is who and what each divine person is. Each divine person is a divine person because they totally give of themselves and that is what each person is, pure gift.
One of the great insights from Vatican II was the revelation of the path to discover our true identity. Here it is explained:
Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. (GS 24)
Only in giving of ourselves are we able to discover our true self. This is both in terms of realising our true identity as a child of God and our true identity which comes through exercising our gifts for the sake of others.
St Eugene de Mazenod spoke those words in his very first sermon to the poor of Aix-en-Provence in France. This sermon is called the Madeleine sermon and was given in the dialect of the poor by the young St. Eugene who decided to prefer the poor of his home town rather than the rich parish.
[Add Madeleine sermon excerpts and explanations]
Learning who we are in the eyes of God is not just a recognition of our sonship/daughtership in God and all that that entails, but comes from the lived sharing of the divine nature with God that is the result of our self-gift to God. Only when we truly give our lives to God do we start to share in the divine nature, since as we have learnt, the divine nature is one of self-gift. The giving of ourselves to God is at the same time receiving the grace of God, which is God himself. God enters us as we enter God. We enter God as God enters us. When this happens we are participating in the Trinity just as each divine person does, but of course to a more limited extent.
Practically, prayer is the most simple way we participate in the Trinity. We should be praying daily. [Link to the prayer course]. The most personal way we enter God is through the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we receive all of the Trinity in the form of bread and wine. If we open ourselves when we receive the Lord, we will start to have a greater experience of God's love through the Eucharist. One way to do this is to be aware we are receiving God in the form of bread, to open our hearts and souls as much as we can when we receive him. To sit and pray and totally focus on the awareness of God being in us and sharing all of our heart, desires, concerns etc with him. Or just to be aware that we are receiving God and being fully open to his love at the moment. This is the greatest intimacy with God and it is personal. There is no perfect formula of what to do, except to seek him totally and be ready to receive him totally, just as any person of the Trinity does.
We let the Lord into our hearts when we let the poor into our hearts. What we do to the least of the poor is what we do to God. [Matt 24?] ... But this opens up questions of how practically we should serve the poor which is part of the deeper question of our vocation in life. This is where the prayer course will help answer those practical questions.
We enter into the divine giving and receiving through receiving God's love and giving God's love.
The other side of discovering our true identity is through the 'gift of self' to others. There are many ways this can occur such as friendship, serving the poor or just using your gifts for the sake of others. It could be part of your job, voluntary work, family life, or any number of ways. What is common to all these situations is service, particularly using your gifts for others.
The more we give of ourselves and engage our gifts and talents in what we do in service for others, the greater fulfilment we will achieve. Each of us being in the image and likeness of God express something unique of God that only we can express in creation. We yearn to live life to the full and only in giving ourselves to God and others can our natural gifts and talents be fulfilled. To discover our true vocation requires discernment. Only in that true vocation will we experience the greatest joy and have the greatest impact on the world for good.
Practically, one way to discover our talents is to use the [clifton scale: see Divine Renovation].
Since we are made in the image and likeness of a Trinitarian God, only through giving of self can we achieve the fulfilment we yearn for.
The Trinity is a family since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit form a family. This is important because it is the basis for every family. Since the Trinity is unconditional love all families are based on unconditional love. Since the giving of the Trinity is the source their identity so in family through sharing our talents and giving of ourselves we discover the joy of unconditional love and are confirmed in our identity in preparation for the fullness of the discovery of our true Trinitarian identity. No matter how good or bad our family life is, we are all part of the Trinitarian family with one Father, co-heirs with Christ and the gift of Mary our Mother.
Families is where we first discover unconditional love.
The meaning of words change over time. As people tried to understand the Trinity, they had to use words to describe the Trinity. These words came with their own meanings which did not quite fit perfectly when applied to the Trinity. The actual meaning of the word changed once it became used for that aspect of the Trinity. The Trinity is the reality. Words help us express that reality. Here are some examples of these words.
We use the word 'person' to designate the 'threeness' of the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit. But each person is not an individual (since not separate), nor people (also since they are not separate). We use the word 'distinct' to indicate that the Father is not the Son, but again that they are not separate. “The divine persons are really distinct from one another.” (CCC 254) God is used for the whole reality, but particularly for the unity of the Trinity as in there is only one God. Other words for God's unity is substance, essence, being, and existence. We will explore these words more when we explore some philosophy. Each of the attributes of God also express God so we can capitalise them, eg God is Love and God is the Ultimate Reality. God the Father is the origin of the Trinity, but not the start, since 'start' implies time.