In yesterday’s reflection, we began our journey by looking at the “foundational experience” of the little child in the arms of her mother. We said that this experience, as it were, “paves the way” for all future experiences of our life in this world. Indeed, it is meant to be a kind of interpretive key, a lens through which we can understand the meaning of our existence. What did we say that this key was? It is the unspoken intuition that all things come from Love, are enfolded in Love, and return to Love…that my own life itself is cradled unceasingly in the arms of Love. It is also the intuition that intimacy is the deepest meaning of human life and our highest vocation, the only space in which our hearts can truly find rest. Precisely the mother, in a unique way, reveals this mystery to her child, and we will soon see how our Blessed Mother, Mary, plays an important role in giving us access to this “key” once again. But let us now try to go deeper into this original experience, to draw to light more of its characteristics.
In this parent-child relationship, we see not only a kind of “sanctuary” of love that God has preserved in the heart of his creation (where the child can receive the love so necessary for her well-being, even if the surrounding world is broken and fractured). We see even more: we recognize that this relationship is a beautiful “image” of the Trinity—of the intimacy shared eternally by the Father and the Son in their one Spirit. How is this? Let us try to cast our interior gaze, in faith, upon what God has revealed concerning his own inner life as Trinity. Let us try to contemplate his beauty revealed to us in Christ, and made clear through the teaching of his Church. We will see how this fulfills, in the most perfect way, what we spoke about in the previous reflection: the reality of You, Me, and the Love between us…and also the way in which distinct persons share together in the most perfect “We” of togetherness without losing their uniqueness, but rather find it fulfilled precisely in the intimacy that they share.
For all eternity, the Father gives himself totally to the Son; he pours out his very life and being into the Son in pure and unconditional love. And this act of total self-donation is also, simultaneously, an act of perfect acceptance, in which the Father makes himself a welcoming-space and a home for his beloved Son. The Son, for his part, welcomes this gift of the Father, in which he has his own true identity as the Son, as the One who is loved by the Father and in relationship with the Father. He knows his “I” before the “You” of the Father; and in this knowledge, in this mutual beholding, he receives the gift of himself and gives himself spontaneously and freely back to the Father. Finally, the Love that the Father and the Son share, the gift that passes eternally between them, is the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Spirit is the Love that binds the Father and the Son together in perfect intimacy; he is, as it were, the Kiss that they share, so intimate that their breath mingles together as one.
In the relationship between mother and child—and in all human relationships, each in their own way—this mystery of the Holy Trinity is constantly revealed and at work. We said that the mother-child relationship is a kind of “sanctuary” that God has preserved in the midst of our fallen and broken world, so that each one of us will receive the foundational experience on which the rest of our lives can be built and from which they can blossom. This experience is the experience of coming as a gift from the love of another. It is also an experience of coming from communion, being enveloped in communion, and growing into communion. One’s own individuality, one’s own personal identity, is not opposed to union with the other, to belonging to the community, but rather matures precisely within it—within the trust-filled sharing of persons in love.
From this space of intimate relationship, as the child grows, her self-awareness deepens. She becomes more conscious of her “I” and lives it with greater deliberateness. And this is an entirely good thing. Communion is not the loss of individuality in a mass of “togetherness,” but the fully conscious, fully free sharing of persons with one another in love. This allows them to be aware both of the “I” and the “You,” and also of the “We” that their unity makes possible. This living of the “I” and “You” together, their living in one another, and their sharing a common experience of intimacy: this is the truest and deepest joy that the human heart can experience. Indeed, it is precisely this breathtaking intimacy for which we have been created.
It is also important to note that this human relationship bears in itself a mystery greater than itself. When the child awakens to the love of her mother, when she experiences her own self enfolded in the shelter of love, she has an intuition that the deepest truth of reality itself is Love. She connects in her mind and her heart the reality of Love and the reality of Being. What exists is good and beautiful because it comes from Love, returns to Love, and remains enveloped in Love. Yes, it is all an expression of Love, an “outpouring” of Love’s abundant generosity. (Here the statement of God to Moses—I AM HE WHO IS—is spontaneously glimpsed to be I AM HE WHO IS LOVE.) Of course, this intuition is not some kind of intellectual theory or a concept in the child’s mind. Rather, it is, as we have said, the “original experience” and the foundational awareness—at the wellspring of all thought, emotion, and willing—from which the rest of human life is meant to mature and blossom.
This also means that the child is naturally and spontaneously a believer in God. No person is naturally an atheist. Denial of God’s existence is profoundly contrary to nature and the aspirations of the human heart. It is, rather, caused by human brokenness and sin, a rupture where there was meant to be unity, blindness where there was meant to be vision. But in the experience of love and communion, the human heart spontaneously expands to an awareness of God. It expands from an experience of love (small “l”) to a recognition of Love (capital “L”). It is only necessary for the parents of the child to foster this, to protect it, and through their words, their example, and their instruction, to help the child grow up into a conscious, mature, and free relationship with God.
This too is perhaps the best way to explain the mystery of the Trinity, not as an abstract idea, but rather as it really is: a Family of Persons joined together in Love. In this way a door is opened for an intimate relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to grow and deepen. Our most intimate human experiences, in other words, unveil for us—however little—a glimpse of the immense Beauty of the Trinity, who is for all eternity a Community of Persons existing in perfect intimacy with one another. Just as the mother and child belong to another another intimately, being united together in a single love that “knits” their hearts together, so this is even more true of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The very beauty of human intimacy in this world was deliberately made by God as an “image” of his own Divine Life, and it awakens in our hearts the longing to return to this Life. For only in the sheltering embrace of the Trinity can our hearts, touched by human intimacy but thirsting for more, at last find enduring rest.
– What is my response to hearing that communion is an experience of “You” and “I” coming together in the “We” of intimacy? Does this awaken my desire, or does it cause me fear?
– Do I see the world as an expression of God’s perfect creative Love, or do I see it (as our contemporary secular world does) as a mere product of random chance that has no inherent meaning? Or, if I do believe in God’s Love, does my attitude toward life reflect this belief?
– Do I feel a “connection” with the mystery of the Trinity as described here? If so, can I ask the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to deepen this revelation? If not, can I invite the divine Persons to reveal themselves to me and give me a glimpse of their love and their mystery?