“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,* Father!” (Romans 8:15)
My brother and sister have been generous enough to bless their brother the priest with three nephews who are 6, 3, and 6 months old. Watching them grow up, from a distance, is a joy. One of the great delights that I have is watching them pray before we sit down to eat. My oldest nephew is left handed so he starts to do the sign of the cross with his left hand and gets half way before he notices that he needs to switch to his right hand to sign himself. The three year old is a whirlwind who does the sign of the cross as any 3 year old would. The six month old is too young to do the sign of the cross but according to my mother, he does pray because since he was a newborn he has always perfectly crossed his fingers when he’s in his uncle’s arms as if to signal that he is praying. Only grandmother’s can pick that up. The sign of the cross is the first prayer that we learn as children. It is the simplest prayer and yet the most profound because we recall our baptism and the fact that we were baptized into a community of love known as the Holy Trinity. Every time we sign ourselves we call upon the presence and guidance of a Triune God who has revealed himself to us as Father, Son, and Spirit. One God yet three distinct persons who are one “not in the unity of a single person but in a Trinity of one substance” as the liturgy tells us.
Today’s solemnity calls us to enter more deeply into the mystery of this community of love and to reflect that divine presence in our lives. We take the sign of the cross for granted. Yes, it’s admirable when we sign ourselves before we eat it, but do we do it haphazardly, as I sometimes do, or do we do it with the reverence befitting the Divine Presence we have just invoked? This is where children can teach us a great deal. Our second graders who just received their First Communion last month were taught to sign themselves right after they received the Body of Christ. They do it so reverently that they do not leave the foot of the altar until the have carefully consumed our Lord and signed themselves ever so slowly. Sometimes children grasp the divine better than we do.
Invoking the Trinity also draws us into the salvific mission of our God who seeks to draw humanity to himself. As I said earlier, one God, three persons, and with three distinct missions. The beginning of the Third Eucharistic Prayer under the old translation said: “Father…all life, all holiness comes from you through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit.” We see that everything emanates from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. This is how we pray during the Mass, and our lives should be lived as a perpetual offering to our God as we seek to draw more closely to this divine mystery of love that is poured out to us by the Blessed Trinity. It is indeed a mystery how our God chose to reveal himself to us, but it can be as simple as watching a child slowly and carefully do the sign of the cross. We call upon our Triune God to be with us, to draw us deeper into this community of love, and to help us communicate this divine presence to all.