Your Trinity Sunday Sermon Notes

Was there a good point or two in the sermon you heard for your Sunday Mass of obligation?

I’ll bet some of you heard some odd things about the Trinity.

Here is a little Trinity Sunday question for you.

In your Sunday sermons today, did you hear the preacher make an analogy for the Trinity?

Did he says something like…

The Trinity is like water, which can be steam, ice or water. (Modalism)

The Trinity is like an egg, which can be shell, yolk and white. (Tritheism)

The three Persons are like three wine bottles of the same wine.

The Father is like the Sun, the Son like Light, the Spirit like warmth.

What did you hear?

Good? Not so good?

We can understand that people resort to analogies when speaking of the Trinity.  Do they get it right?


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  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Newman comments on the shamrock story in Arians of the Fourth Century. Its first appearance in writing was only after shamrocks became a national Irish symbol, in post-medieval times. (Which makes sense.) So stop blaming Patrick!

    He also talks about a lot of other early faulty analogies, and how heretics are the only reason we have to worry about this stuff. Otherwise, everybody would just take it the right way inchoately. But since there are heresies, the Church had to get more picky and less vaguely poetic, and some nice stuff got thrown under the bus.

  2. Tim in Dixie says:

    In the TLM, Father stated with the caveat, “When speaking on the Trinity, one may find himself slipping into one of three Heresies.” Then gave an in depth treatment and explaination of the Trinity, drawing heavily upon St.Thomas Aquinas.

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    I never realized talking about the Trinity was such a minefield for these reasons.
    I take this to mean there are actually no adequate analogies at all.

  4. Militans says:

    The priest spoke about unity, that the emperor called the council at Nicea because the theories of Aries etc were causing disunity / socoal disorder. That the way to unity was not to allow everything but to tell everyone what the truth was and hold them to it.

  5. Stephanus83 says:

    I attend a Dominican parish. There were no heretical comparisons or odd analogies made during mass. I’m very thankful to be spiritually led by the Dominican Friars. The province of Saint Joseph ordained 11 men yesterday. I hope everyone says a prayer for the new Priests in the eastern province.

  6. Militans says:

    He also spoke about the importance of the creed and asked us to focus on the creed that Sunday and take it as our rule of faith.

  7. Yorkmum says:

    What I took away from this morning’s homily…

    Although the word Trinity does not occur in scripture, God has revealed Himself to be a community of persons, both in the OT and the NT. The fact that God has chosen to reveal Himself in his inmost being to us is a sign of pure love. The giving of love between the persons of the Trinity is a sign of pure self-giving love. We, made in His image, are called to the same self-giving love.

  8. PA mom says:

    Father started by saying that we believe God is three Persons, but only one God. How can this be?

    He took out the thurible and incense, started it going, then said that a reason for our use of incense is that it goes up, reminding us of how our prayers rise to heaven, but also because it makes the area less clear visibly. This reminds us that while there are ideas of our Faith that we can understand, there are others which remain mystery.
    Then he finished by quoting St Augustine. That if we think we fully understand something that explains God, then we should reject it, for it is not God…

    The thurible (which rarely comes out at times the children would attend) was a stroke of brilliance, as it was a CYO mass, and it was PACKED with kids curiously watching.

  9. AttiaDS says:

    At Maple Hill, KS (FSSP), the priest at the 07:00 Mass pointed out that The Trinity is hinted at in the Old Testament re: Abraham and his three visitors and David asking, if I am getting this right, “Bless us, O God, Bless us, our God, Bless us, O God.”

    He also made mention that The Trinity is imprinted in all of creation:
    1. There are three levels of angels, each having three choirs
    2. All material things have three dimensions
    3. Time: past, present, and future
    4. Water: ice, liquid, steam
    5. All creation is either animal, vegetable, or mineral

    There may have been more, but I do not remember. He made mention of The Trinity in the New Textament and two other ways; can’t remember those.

  10. exNOAAman says:

    One (pretty good) non-trinity point…
    Father told the Mark Twain quote about how ingorant his dad was until the boy had outgrown his teenage years…..

    Then refered this to the gospel where Jesus said I have much more to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.
    Meaning they would have to mature, like Mark Twain before they could understand it.

  11. JimRB says:

    Our pastor did not resort to analogies but instead talked about leaning on St Augustine who said that “wherever you see charity, there you see the Trinity.” He then challenged the parish that we needed to do more to demonstrate our faith through life giving love in our families and communities. He did speak of the family as an “icon” of the Trinity. He also briefly discussed participating at Mass by coming early and preparing in prayer, staying late and reflecting in prayer, and praying along with the mass rather than merely spectating.

  12. Lepidus says:

    Started with the water / modalism one, that Father mentioned above. Then went to St. Patrick’s Shamrock. Followed up with a new one that I’ve never heard before. Sounds like another take on Modalism, but I’m not that good on naming the heresy of the month. “Three Persons” – the word “person” comes from the Greek “persona”, which is like a mask the Greek actors one. One actor would often play various roles, with each role being its own mask or persona.

  13. APX says:

    I haven’t been to Mass yet, but a couple years ago one of our FSSP priests mentioned that in seminary their instructor for homiletics warned them that on Trinity Sunday it’s best to keep the sermon short to avoid falling into heresy.

  14. Seamus says:

    Our pastor actually warned us *against* analogizing the Trinity to “water, which can be steam, ice or water,” told us that would be the heresy of Modalism.

  15. jameeka says:

    Father O gave an outstanding sermon-he began by talking of relationships, such as the long-time married couples, ready to “kill” each other, but also very much loving and surprising each other. A psychiatrist-priest corrected Fr’s misperception once, saying we can never really know any another person “inside and out”.

    There were hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament, when three Men came to visit Abraham and Lot, Isaiah’s vision.

    God is Love, loves us with the love of the Father of the prodigal son, always wants to restore us. Jesus at the Last Supper called his Apostles friends. He wants to call us friend.

    And imagine the most beautiful thing you can think of; St Augustine said God IS Beauty, when we see God we will be enraptured, and God is endlessly fascinating and beautiful. God, in the Trinity, knows us inside-out, but we will always have new aspects to learn about God.

    So, parts of analogies, but no single analogy.
    Father O will have his 50th anniversary as a priest next weekend, please pray for him.

  16. Wiktor says:

    We were spared of analogies. Father explained why God has to be one and that Trinity is a kind of community that we cannot fully understand. Also spoke of community in marriage (he did NOT say “the Trinity is like marriage”).

  17. vox borealis says:

    I go to mass at a church dedicated to St. Patrick. The deacon who gave the homily is of Irish descent. On cue, we got the shamrock analogy.

  18. Thomas Sweeney says:

    Not at Mass today, but a few years ago, Father explained that the Trinity cannot be explained in human terms. The best he could do was refer to the Trinity as a hypostatic union.

  19. MarkJ says:

    Father made the observation that in the first reading Wisdom speaks of Himself in these words: “when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman…”. And then when He became Man, Jesus was a craftsman by trade. Pretty cool insight!

  20. rcg says:

    Our priest used the Atanasian Creed to discuss the Trinity. And of course we had the return of the preface of the Most Holy Trinty that is one of my favourite summaries of the concept of the Trinity.

  21. mike cliffson says:

    Very brief intro , no metaphors
    “You are all very familiar with ” -Charitable , wish it were true in my case- “the considerations of St Augustine, St Somebody, St Thomas Aquinas, about how mysterious and unfathomable the Trinity is../….. trying to fully comprehend like putting the sea into a thimble …./..”
    Then beautifully timed:
    We can be absolutely certain of the EFFECT the Trinity has in our own lives”
    development of partucularly the second reading on suffering, brings patince, which brings perseverence, which engenders hope , joined with first and third readings, all of christ and thru Christ.
    Key point again and again : suffering, and Christ’s own passion.
    CF the world’s response to suffering : scandal and moaning.
    Haven’t got far beyond the whinging stage , myself, but I enjoyed, wrong word, the sermon.

  22. Tricia says:

    The homilist was a guest priest and the homily was not excellent.

    However, the main celebrant was a young priest ordained yesterday and this was his first Mass. He used Eucharistic Prayer I. The joy of his first Mass certainly made up for any bad points in the homily.

  23. everett says:

    Blessedly, no analogies today. Our pastor didn’t try to explain the Trinity, merely spoke of the Trinity’s role in Salvation history, starting with creation, the need for salvation, the resulting Incarnation, Jesus’ promise of an advocate before his Ascension, and then of Pentecost. One of our pastor’s better homilies.

  24. andia says:

    Fr Bryan an dFr Steve both spoke of the trinity in terms of their relationship to each other and then explained St Patrick’s “use” of the “shamrock” and how it was three parts but one stem and how this could be both illuminating and muddying of the concept, He said we can’t really understand it, but that we honor the Trinity as relationship when we try to honor the relationships in our lives -even the difficult ones.

  25. FrankWalshingham says:

    Heard a great sermon on how the Triune God of Catholicism distinguishes our Faith from Islam. Given by a Dominican Friar, Fr. Lawrence Lew, at Old St. John’s Chapel, in Silver Spring, MD. The Dominican rite Latin Mass was also a special treat. It is well worth reading the sermon, which is posted on Fr. Lew’s blog site:

  26. jfk03 says:

    Attended Mass at old Sacred Heart Church in Hollister, Ca. I was was received into the Catholic Church in this very place in 1961,at age 19. This is now the home for the TLM community for the Monterey area. Today, Trinity Sunday, was the first time the TLM has been celebrated in this parish in many years. Father’s sermon focused on the significance of the altar and, especially, the altar stone. I prayed for the souls of those instrumental in my conversion, in front of this lovely altar.

    The old altar had been removed after Vatican II. It has now been replaced by an altar salvaged from a recently-closed church in Massachusetts. Father mentioned that a parishioner said the “new” altar — a gothic altar — reminded her of a bride. The church is the bride of Christ, and the altar represents Christ Himself. The altar transcends time and space.

  27. ReadingLad says:

    I won’t try to summarise Fr’s excellent (and I believe) orthodox sermon, but I am reminded of the older priest who explained that the reason there were 24 Sundays after Pentecost in the calendar was so the priest had 23 opportunities to correct any heresy he might have inadvertently preached on the first of them. Alternatively, the proof of a truly pastoral bishop was a nice long pastoral letter to displace the sermon on Trinity Sunday!

  28. clarinetist04 says:

    After explaining the catechetical explanation of the Trinity and the readings, Father described what type of mystery this is, analogizing it not to the the type of mystery we cannot understand because we cannot see it through the fog or through the darkness, but as a mystery we can’t see or understand as the sun, where the light is so bright that it blinds us. I thought it was a pretty illuminating way to describe it (no pun intended).

  29. At the extraordinary form Mass I attended this morning, the priest focused on baptism and really didn’t talk too much about the Trinity per se. He made sure that everyone knew how to baptize, including asking one of the servers specifically if he knew how to do it, particularly that the water must be poured and not smudged. I had a bit of trouble hearing because he had walked down the center aisle behind the corner where I was seated, so I didn’t quite catch everything. Given the Gospel reading, I suppose that speaking about baptism was hardly inappropriate, but I don’t think he got anywhere near heresy about the nature of the Trinity.

  30. Rob83 says:

    Some reference at today’s TLM about the equilateral triangle image with God in the middle. The word heresy was tossed out at the beginning in reference to things that somehow confuse the doctrine, but otherwise the focus was more on the importance of relationships and not trying to further analogize the Trinity.

    It seems father must have had a run-in with sedevacantist types recently, since the end of the sermon veered over to complaints he’d received about his “invalid” ordination circa 2012 in the newer rite, and he took a bit of time to roast that position.

  31. JuliB says:

    Fr gave the imperfect analogy of the Shamrock. However, he brought in the fact that the Irish were known for their strong Catholicism from the time of St Patrick until about 10 years ago when they seem to have lost the faith. Pretty sad moment in the homily.

  32. SaintJude6 says:

    Father pointed out that Islam and Judaism both speak of God in terms of oneness, but that there are passages in the Old Testament in which God speaks of himself in the plural. There was much more, but that is the point that stuck with me throughout the rest of the day.

  33. Joseph-Mary says:

    Was traveling and privileged to attend an FSSP parish. Father spoke of the Trinity and defined nature and Person for us. Then, since it is the month of Mary, he discussed the relation of Our Lady to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

  34. Gail F says:

    Today was the first Mass for a newly ordained priest who grew up in our parish. The homily, given by our former pastor (who recently went to another assignment) was about priesthood. However, our bulletin had half the Athanasian Creed reproduced in it. You really can’t go wrong there:

    “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

    “So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

    “So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.”

    Parts of this Mass were very long and so I read that and thought about it quite a bit. A bit wordy, but it says it all…

  35. juli says:

    Father pointed out the inadequacy of human reason when faced with the Trinity by verbally drawing a picture of a triangle and labeling the corners A (Father), B (Son) and C (Holy Spirit). In the center is D for Divinity. A is equal to D. B is equal to D. C is equal to D. But it does not follow that A is the same as B, or that B is the same as C. He had a quote from Chesterton that he opened and closed with. The end of the quote was, “it is not good for God to be alone.” He also told about being a newly ordained priest in Rome working with the exorcist, Fr. Amorth, who once asked a demon possessing a 13 year-old what kind of relationship two enemies who killed each other would have in hell. The demon scornfully replied that there were no relationships in hell; each is completely alone with himself.

  36. PhilipNeri says:

    No analogies for me. . .just a simple question: can we bear all truth and be prepared for the things to come? Yes! With the abiding presence of the Blessed Trinity among us. . .

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  37. Dave N. says:

    Our TLM had BOTH ice/water/steam AND shamrock this year. A heretical double-header of sorts. Sigh.

  38. iPadre says:

    I gave the example of a Catholic woman who asked her mother to explain the Trinity. When the mother couldn’t, she abandoned her faith and became Moslem. I asked people who has electricity, televisions, etc. to raise their hands. All did. I asked if anyone knew perfectly how it all worked, no one did. We will never fully understand God, if we did, He would not be God. We must study the mysteries of the Holy Faith with prayer, because only the Holy Spirit can make it stick, or give us some understanding. And, never, never, never ask you Aunt Harriet or Uncle Joe to explain the truths of the faith. Ask a priest, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and other solid Catholic books, but always do it with prayer.

  39. JonPatrick says:

    Father explained the Trinity in terms of how the 3 persons arfe described in the Bible:
    God the Father – Jesus calls him “Abba” which in Aramaic is more like our “Daddy”. God the Father is not the distant God of the OT but is our “Daddy”.
    God the Son – is Immanuel, God with us. God so loved the world that he sent his only son … (John 3:16).
    God the Holy Spitir – our advocate, our guardian, our comforter. Once the disciples received the Holy Spirit they lost their fear.
    When we pray, remember the Trinity – Gloria Patri.

  40. un-ionized says:

    Joachim Jeremias came up with that Abba = Daddy business in about 1971. He meant, I suppose, to indicate the intimacy of the relationship between Father and Son but Abba is definitely not how a small child would address a father.

  41. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Un-ionized,

    The modern Hebrew for Father is Av, for daddy is abba (at least according to the Hebrew lessons I listened to on my iPad :) ). In any case, little kids do address their fathers as abba in Semitic countries. Oh, by the way, it is pronounced (according to Ven. Fulton Sheen), ab-BA, accent on the second syllable.

    AttiaDS wrote:

    “He also made mention that The Trinity is imprinted in all of creation:
    1. There are three levels of angels, each having three choirs
    2. All material things have three dimensions
    3. Time: past, present, and future
    4. Water: ice, liquid, steam
    5. All creation is either animal, vegetable, or mineral”

    2. All material things have at least four dimension and as many as eleven, for a suitable definition of dimension – otherwise, the number could be infinite for a different definition
    3. Time has no clear distinction, quantum mechanically, between past, present, and future, because of the Planck limit
    4. Water has more than three phases and even those three phases can co-exist
    5. Viruses are neither animal, vegetable, nor mineral.

    The point is that no material analogy can quite capture a supernatural reality, although some can come closer than others.

    The Chicken

  42. monnica says:

    Some amazing points above! I really liked the reminder about not being able to know another person inside and out and the demonstration with the thurible. Then again I loved too the idea of “mysteries too bright” (rather than too murky) for us.

    Our pastor said that Trinity Sunday was put in place to correct mistaken ideas of God that can become fixed in our minds, to the detriment of our spiritual growth. He used to take Holy Communion to an old woman who thought of God in terms of a landlord: I need to keep current with my rent to avoid being evicted. He emphasized that God the Son (as Wisdom) in the first reading delights to be among human beings! Our relationship with God is rightly lived as an exchange of love not as “paying the rent.” There is a true and deep affinity between God and the creatures He made in His image.

  43. paterscotus says:

    Offering (OF) Mass Trinity Sunday at a monastery of nuns, with the faithful present, I opted to read the Athanasian Creed, then comment on (1) the Trinitarian “imprint” upon creation analogized by a loving and fruitful marriage and (2) St. Teresa of Jesus’s insight as to the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity within the soul in the state of grace.

  44. The Masked Chicken says:

    To be fair, abba means daddy in modern Hebrew; in ancient Hebrew, abba was less intimate and more relational – my father (or father, in general).

    As for its pronunciation, one website (Hebrew4christians) says AB-ba, but says either pronunciation is correct, but puts ab-Ba first.

    The Chicken

  45. JesusFreak84 says:

    Gregorian Byzantine calendar had All Saints yesterday, and we actually had relics in from Rome (not sure how or why, but awesome!) and Father used the Little Flower’s statement of never denying God in anything, no matter how small, as the simplest means by which one may become a Saint.

  46. I eschewed analogies and attempts to explain how God is a trinity. I stated the matter plainly, and explained WHY we believe it: because Jesus said so. I then went on to explain what this truth means to us. Namely, because God is a relationship in himself, it is possible to say God is love; if God were solitary, in what sense would he “love”? We enter into relationship with God only because God stoops to raise us up into the life of the Trinity. I pointed out that Islam calls us blasphemers for this talk of intimacy with God. And I said the difference this doctrine makes is between us being God’s pet, versus being God’s spouse, as Jesus said would be the case.

  47. Patikins says:

    Father had two main points: the Trinity is a relationship and to know the Trinity better, go to the Blessed Virgin.

  48. ksking says:

    Our convert-from-Protestantism deacon gave the homily and boy, were his roots showing. He said that God is shrouded in mystery, and that our attempts to probe that mystery were futile. All those “dark age” analogies (apparently, he hoped to sweep away the Fathers’ teachings on the Trinity) never helped anyone and weren’t worth much. Shrouding things in mystery, like the Mass, for example, was a stupid human thing to do, and thank GOD for Vatican II, for helping to dispel all the silliness of a Mass no one could understand. See how much better things are now? See how many more people respect the mystery of the Eucharist and attend Mass in great numbers? –Actually, that last part was what I was thinking, after cringing over his assessment of Tradition. It was like a punch to the gut. His point was that we should reflect on God’s godness, and stand in awe of his mystery, and sing another Dan Schutte hymn.

  49. templariidvm says:

    Father recalled when he was in second grade and put on the spot to explain the Trinity to an adult. His sister chimed in that it means God could play first, second and third base all at the same time. He went on to explain that it is not that simple, but what must be remembered is that He is one God.

  50. Absit invidia says:

    “The point is that no material analogy can quite capture a supernatural reality, although some can come closer than others.”

    This is certainly true. Although to label any attempt to do so as heretical is a bit of a kneejerk reaction. I seem to recall Ven. Fulton Sheen do this frequently using the water analogy and then to explain other concepts in a similar way. He was simply trying to make the Faith approachable. Ven. Fulton Sheen’s approach of using analogies is what helped me personally appreciate the beauty of Catholicism at a time when it seemed complex and unapproachable.

  51. psalm51 says:

    I’ll never do it justice.
    Fr. said that in the trinity there was a total giving of the Father to the Son (and the Holy Spirit). Then he went on to compare that to marriage and (jackpot) he preached about contraception. He said most people don’t think about it much but when a couple uses contraception there isn’t a total giving of self. So much more that I can’t articulate. Well said and powerful stuff.

  52. comedyeye says:

    YES! The pastor, who has a school at his parish, said that in math class
    1 + 1 +1 =3
    But in religion class 1 + 1 + 1= 1

    I liked it.

  53. Liam says:

    At an Extraordinary Form Mass this past Sunday I explicitly heard the water, ice, vapor analogy expressed by poor Patrick in the video. My colleagues and I looked aghast at each other and blurted out in unison: “Modalism!”

  54. Imrahil says:

    No Sermon note (one of the sermons I heard was a paraphrase of St. Augustine on God recognizing Himself etc.), but a very short annotation to the dear comedyeye:

    You do know, and your pastor does know, how much fun you can have in math class

    (i) by replacing the +’s with *’s

    (ii) with the nice words “mod 2” ?

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