Sometimes I am tempted to wonder whether there is any aspect of our faith which Benedict XVI has not illuminated to our benefit. This reflection on the Blessed Trinity and the Eucharist comes from his 2007 Post-Synodical Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, the whole of which is well worth reading. I offer these reflections for today’s Solemnity.
7. The first element of eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, trinitarian love. In Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus, we find an illuminating expression in this regard: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). These words show the deepest source of God’s gift. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a “thing,” but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus, after feeding the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fishes, says to those who had followed him to the synagogue of Capernaum: “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33), and even identifies himself, his own flesh and blood, with that bread: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6:51). Jesus thus shows that he is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind.
A free gift of the Blessed Trinity
8. The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11). There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God’s breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life. Jesus Christ, who “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God’s own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfilment of God’s promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The “mystery of faith” is thus a mystery of trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: “If you see love, you see the Trinity.”
Yes, indeed, where we see love, we see the workings of the Trinity. God is not an isolated, figure brooding over His creation, He is, as St John tells us, ‘love’. We encounter Him where we see love, and we do His work where we offer service through love. The foolishness of those who imagine that anyone believes in salvation through works is hard to understand, save in the sense that the great Enemy darkens the minds of men. If we are in Christ and He is in us, then just as the love of the Trinity overflows into creation, then our love for Him flows from us in the helping of others. Our humanity is redeemed through the Incarnation, and the Risen and Ascended Christ sanctifies our flesh. We shall be resurrected not as disembodied spirits, but in glorified bodies, like unto His body. Through the Eucharist we are sharers in His life now, whilst we are in this mortal realm. For this great gift, we give thanks and praise. To those who wonder what the Church means when it says that the fulness of the faith is here, this is the deep and true meaning.