Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
St. Bernard of Clairvaux once remarked that “the greatest thing of all is to know how to live.” To know how to live we must know where we came from and where we are going. If we don’t know this we will think living is a matter of staying entertained! To know how to live we must be able to discern an order in this journey from origin to end. Discerning order is the purpose of our ability to reason. Today the Church gives us that order.
We are celebrating the inner life of God. As a unity of three persons God is complete and needs nothing beside Himself. His inner life is an ordered life and everything that proceeds from it has an order to it. The inner life of God ends in Gift and Mission. That means it can be received and it is capable of being imitated.
The end or goal of God’s inner life is where ours begins. The end point of God’s inner life is the receptivity of love between the Father and the Son reflected in the person of the Spirit. So, our life is first and foremost one of receptivity; we receive life… and in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is Gift. Gift is a sign of love. What is not God exists not out of necessity, but out of gratuitous love. The love is to be returned to its source. This receptivity and return of love is our origin and goal in life. It guides how we are to live. We call it contemplation.
In wisdom, God made everything in consideration of everything else. All of creation is ordered to that which is highest, that which is most like God. That is humanity. All is ordered to us in love and we are free to accept or reject it. Were we not free to do this, the gift would be worthless. A thing has personal value only if we choose it. Choosing is a matter of perception. If we see ourselves in the light of secular psychology, we will likely see ourselves as determined by current or earlier life experiences; perhaps as cheated; at best as self-made. We will reject the love. If we see ourselves in the light of the Trinity we will see self as having a place and mission in the order of things. Everything we have is received for this purpose and what we don’t have we don’t need. We were given these by love and for love. If we choose this gift of love, we are choosing a happiness which we cannot give ourselves. Because we wobble between these two choices this choosing calls for participation in wisdom.
We are celebrating the Holy Spirit as teacher and witness. One of the Spirit’s gifts is Wisdom. What the wise have is not a secret repository of knowledge unavailable to the rest of us. What they have is the truth we have just heard and the good sense to take it seriously, to organize their lives around it. So, it is not the knowledge of the wise that we admire, but the value they place on it and that they invite us to place on it. At the core of wisdom is a judgment of value. To accurately distinguish value, we must know what our end in life is and what the means are for reaching it. Neither the means nor the end needs to be invented. They have been known “since the foundation of the world.” We simply have to listen to those who have gone ahead of us. Then we must choose.
In the book of Proverbs wisdom is gained by listening to the instructions of one who has gone ahead of us in life. Listening nurtures the mind and the heart with what it otherwise lacks. Wisdom is not a course of action, but a state of mind and orientation of the heart. This orientation is received by being teachable. This is why the core of our Rule of life is the steps of humility: they begin with fear of the Lord, which is also the beginning of wisdom, and they dispose us to know we need guidance, to seek it, drink it in, and call out for more. It involves the mind when we absorb teachings; it involves the heart when we actively desire it, and the will when we choose it.
Because we must not only know truth, but take it seriously, our contemplative life has as its immediate goal purity of heart. Lady Wisdom will not tolerate those who have other lovers, other ways of perceiving life and other ways of living it. She requires commitment and in exchange she gives conviction.
The commitment and conviction are about the order of things. The Father set the order; the Son has taken it seriously. He passed that on to us in the Spirit. Then we know how to live. Wisdom is not something; it is Someone. It is He who said, “I am the Truth.”