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1 + 1 + 1 = 1

Sr. Ruth Droege, OP, PhD

1 + 1 + 1 = 1

A reflection by Sr. Ruth Droege, OP

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

We often pray throughout the day, opening our prayer with these words while making the sign of the cross. How deeply do we ponder and live the mystery of the cross, the mystery of the Trinity as revealed in the sign of the cross?

“Karl Rahner, S.J, famously proclaims ‘that despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical lives, monists.’” Heidi Russell.  The Source of All Love. P. 115

Russell goes on to say that many people regard the Trinity as something incomprehensible and therefore spend little time thinking about why the Trinity is significant to who we are as human beings.

How, then, can we grow in appreciation of this devotional action? I think that this is only accomplished through meditation.

First of all, we experience God through our senses.  This honeysuckle blossom smells good.  It delights our sense of smell.

Secondly, it is possible for some of us to move beyond the delight of sense to an awareness of some presence, vaguely perceived, as wholly good, wholly delightful.

The heavens declare the glory of God

Whose handiwork the firmament proclaims.

Psalm 19

Our response to this would be adoration and worship.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise the Lord from the heights.

Psalm 148

Their reading of the Gospel of John would enable us to further unpack this mystery.

In the beginning, was the Word,

The Word was in god’s presence;

And the Word was God.

He was present to God in the beginning.

God the Father enfolds the Word in God’s self. Picture a piece of paper folded over and over and then with a hole punched in the center. This symbolizes the enfolding of the Word in the Trinity and the result is two Persons, Father and Son. The love of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit, the third Person.  The love of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit is the relationship of eternal, everlasting, flow of loving.

The mystery of the Trinity is the free choice to share this life with humans. ‘’The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John. Chapter 1.  Verse 14. Duns Scotus (and Teilhard de Chardin) taught that God would have become man even if Adam had not sinned.    In this understanding of the mystery of the cross, God, lovingly and freely, shares God’s life with us. That God would take delight in being with the children of men, to suffer and to die, is the mystery of love itself.

However, salvation history recognizes that man did sin and needs redemption. In making the sign of the cross, we acknowledge our need to participate in Christ’s redeeming love, in his passion, death, and resurrection. In and through Christ we become open to Christ’s forgiving our imperfections. In and through Christ we become able to forgive those who have offended us. In this way we make our world and the universe a better and more peaceful place

Finally, what is the meaning of 1+ 1 +1 = 1?

Most people will think of the Trinity as three individuals each with its own center of consciousness.  Thinking in this way results in 1 + 1 +1 = 3.  We cannot think of something distinct that is not its own individual thing. In the Trinity, the persons are distinct by their relationship of loving.  The three share the same center of God-consciousness. Several examples that should NOT be taken literally may be helpful.

Think of a basketball team.  Each player has the overall team goal of winning the game. Each contributes to this in his or her own unique manner. Or look at the four writers of the Gospel. Each tells the message of the Good News from his perspective.

So we also, in the Mystical Body of Christ, make use of our particular gifts in making Christ’s presence known in the world.  In the loving flow of the Trinity, in the Son, our loving will have its unique quality. All that we have loved will somehow be present. Creative union differentiates, it does not absorb.

And so we express ourselves in prayer: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Footnote. 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 is on the sign hanging on the door of the theology department at Marquette University.  Heidi Russell. P. 41.
Preachers of  Truth • Love • Justice