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The mystery of the Trinity (part one)

9/25/2021
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The principal mystery of the Christian faith affirms in God the unity of nature and the distinction into three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This mystery has always had a basic importance for the faith of every Christian. It has been affirmed since the first Council of Nicaea, in 325 A.D. and included in the Creed drawn up after the Council. Dante, too, had the opportunity to believe as a good Christian in the dogma of the Holy Trinity. In fact, his entire work is scattered with references to this theme.  We find the first reference to the Trinity in the third canto of the Inferno, in the verses in which Dante speaks of the gate of Hell.

Through me you pass into the city of woe:/Through me you pass into eternal pain:/Through me among the people lost for aye./Justice the founder of my fabric moved:/To rear me was the task of power divine,/Supremest wisdom, and primeval love./Before me things create were none, save things/Eternal, and eternal I shall endure./All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” (Hell vv 1-9)

Therefore, hell too, like all of creation, proceeds from the triune God: God the Father (Divine Power), God the Son (Supreme Wisdom) and God the Holy Spirit (First Love), in whom supreme Love and supreme Justice live harmoniously. The Trinitarian theme is then developed in Purgatory and Paradise. In the third canto of Purgatory, the inability of our intellect to directly understand the Trinitarian mystery is emphasized.

[Virgil to Dante]: “Foolish is he who hopes our intellect/can reach the end of that unending road/only one Substance in three Persons follows”. (Purg. III, 34-36)

The same concept of the triune God is taken up again in the beginning of Paradise where God appears as an unfathomable mystery. Our intellect is immersed in Him to such an extent that it is dazzled by Him, but it cannot understand Him or assimilate Him. Our memory cannot remember God, so any man is incapable of communicating Him to others.

In the tenth canto of Paradise, the Trinity is presented. All three Divine Persons together create the universe and man. The poet is moved by the vision of the starry sky and the order that regulates the life of the stars and planets: vv1-6 “The primal and unutterable Power, gazing at his Son, with the Love that both breathe out eternally, made whatever circles through mind and space with such order, that whoever knows them is not without some sense of Him”. 

The reference to the sun, the most important star, is very significant: vv 28-30 “The Sun, the greatest minister of Nature,/who stamps the world with the power of Heaven,/and measures time for us by his light”.

Also in canto XIV of Paradise Dante speaks of the Mystery of the Trinity, entrusting it to a dizzying but simple play on words, vv28-30 “…that One and Two and Three who lives forever, and reigns in Three and Two and One, not circumscribed, but circumscribing all things…”

It is a moment of stupendous poetry where the doctrine relies more on the emotion of a rapt vision and a rhythm of words than on calm reasoning. And finally (in this first part) consider Canto XXVII of Paradise which begins with a triumphant hymn to the Trinity. Verses 1-9 are a veritable hymn to the Trinity.

“Glory, to the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit,/ began through all of Paradise, /so that the sweet song intoxicated me./ I seemed to see the Universe’s smile:/ so that my drunkenness/ entered sight and hearing. /O joy! O ineffable happiness!/ O life of love and peace combined!/ O safest riches that are beyond longing!”.

With the sweet melody of the "Glory" to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit sung by the whole of Paradise, Dante's heart becomes inebriated. Dante's "intoxication" before the spectacle of this "smile of the universe" explodes in a series of exclamations, which tell all his joy and "the ineffable joy of feeling pervaded by divine love and tell of the peace of the soul and the "sure wealth". This hymn has the value of a consecration: since the poet has just passed the triple test of faith, hope and charity.

Inspired by Jesus, Luisa Piccarreta also spoke extensively about the Holy Trinity. The prime Act of the Divine Persons is the perfect accord of Their Will. Their Will is so unified that one cannot distinguish the Will of One from That of the Other; so much so, that even though Their Persons are distinct – They are Three – Their Will is One, and this One Will produces a continuous act of perfect adoration among the Divine Persons – One adores the Others. This accord of Will produces equality of Sanctity, of Light, of Goodness, of Beauty, of Power, of Love, and establishes the true reign of order and of peace, giving immense joys and happinesses, and infinite beatitudes.

The Holy Trinity gives life, preserves, purges and delights from Its simple breath, there is no creature which does not hang upon It. Its Light is inaccessible to created mind. If anyone wanted to enter, it would happen to him as to a person who wanted to enter into a great fire: not having sufficient heat and power to face this fire, he would be consumed by the fire. Therefore, being extinguished, he will never be able to say either how much or what kind of heat that fire contained. The rays are the Divine virtues. Some virtues are less adaptable to created mind; this is why the created mind is delighted by them, it can see them, but is unable to describe anything. The other virtues, which are more adaptable to the human mind, can be described, but like a stammerer would do, because no one can speak about them in a right and worthy manner. The virtues which are more adaptable to the human mind are Love, Mercy, Goodness, Beauty, Justice, Science.

“I adore You, O my God, one God in three Persons,

I annihilate myself before Your Majesty.

You alone are Being, way, beauty, and goodness.

I glorify you, I praise you, I thank you,

I love you in the name of all, even though I am completely incapable and unworthy”.

Antonietta Abbattista
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