Gratias Tibi, Trinitas

Gratias Tibi, Trinitas

The feast of the Most Holy Trinity, dear the hearts of all Catholics, comes as the crowning achievement of the ineffable mysteries that we have been contemplating since the beginning of Advent. That God would send someone to save us was enough. But He came in person and taught us that God is not alone, He has an eternal Son. The Son promised to send another Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, and we learn that God is a Trinity of Persons, each sharing in the one and only Divine Nature. And so the Church invites us to celebrate this feast which is, as it were, the summary of them all, being the celebration of God Himself, His inner life of love and communion, the source and goal of all creation.

The Gregorian antiphons for the feast are all magnificent approaches to the mystery of God, leaving those who sing them with a sentiment of awe before the endless ocean of goodness and love which is God. This evening’s antiphon “Gratias Tibi, Deus” for the Magnificat goes like this: “We give thee thanks, O God, we give thee thanks, O true and sole Trinity, only and supreme Deity, holy and only Unity!” And do we have so much to be thankful for! We can all count our graces, but what is here contemplated is the very existence of the universe: if things exist, it is because God is. If there were no God, there would be nothing at all. And so we fall down in adoration, conscious of the privilege of existing and being able to know and share in His own life.

Many saints were given to understand this. Among them, one of my favourites is St Elisabeth of the Trinity, the Carmelite of Dijon, whose entire life was a continual contemplation of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in her soul. Her prayer to the Trinity is quite well known, so I will not quote it here. But I will cite a magnificent text in which she describes what she viewed as being her vocation: to be the praise of the glory of the Triune God. She writes:

“The praise of glory is a soul that dwells in God, with the pure, disinterested love which does not seek self in the sweetness of His love; a soul that loves Him above all His gifts, and would have loved Him as much had it received nothing, which wishes well to the object of its tenderness. But how can we wish well to God, except by accomplishing His will, since this will ordains all things for His greater glory? Such a soul should surrender itself fully, blindly, to this will so that it cannot possibly wish anything but what God wishes.

“The praise of glory is a silent soul, a lyre beneath the touch of the Holy Spirit from which He can draw divine harmonies. Knowing that suffering is a chord that emits still more exquisite tones, this soul rejoices at giving it forth, that it may impress the heart of its God more pleasingly.

“The praise of glory is a soul that contemplates God in faith and in simplicity; it reflects His whole being, and is a fathomless abyss into which He can flow and outpour Himself; a crystal through which He can shine and view His own perfections and splendor. A soul which thus permits the Divine Being to satisfy within it His craving, to communicate all He is and has, is truly the praise of glory of all His gifts.

“Finally, the praise of glory is one who is always giving thanks, whose acts, movements, thoughts, aspirations, while more deeply establishing her in love, are like an echo of the eternal Sanctus in the heaven of glory. The blessed rest not day or night, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty… and, falling down, adore Him that liveth for ever and ever.’ The praise of glory begins now, within the heaven of her soul, the task that will be hers for all eternity. Her chant is uninterrupted; she acts beneath the influence of the Holy Ghost, although she may sometimes be unconscious of it, for human weakness prevents souls keeping their attention fixed on God without distractions. She sings and adores perpetually, and has, so to speak, gone out from self and become absorbed in praise and love, in her passion for the glory of her God.

“Let us, in the heaven of our soul, be a homage of glory to the Blessed Trinity. One day the veil will be withdrawn, and we shall be brought into the eternal courts; there we shall sing in the bosom of infinite Love, and God will give us the ‘new name’ promised to him that overcometh. What will that name be? — Laudem gloriae—The praise of glory.