You Cannot Bear It Now

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Illustration by Br. Martin Erspamer, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. Used with permission

You know that feeling you get—from a baby’s toothless smile, or a cello tenderly played, or a full moon over the ocean—when your heart is so full of wonder it might burst. Right? You’ve felt the delight that the Wisdom of God and the psalmist proclaim in today’s readings. You’ve rejoiced in mystery.  

The Trinity—the “eternal holy Trinity and undivided Unity”—looms large among our mysteries of faith. As a young catechist, I unveiled the concept of Trinity to grade-schoolers by comparing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to the three states of water: solid ice, liquid water, and steam. This seemed clever and accessible, except I learned later that it was heresy. The heresy of Modalism, actually, which claims that God is one Person in three modes—the flawed water analogy—rather than three distinct Persons in one God. 

Despite our attempts to get it, there is no apt analogy for the Trinity. 

“You cannot bear it now,” Jesus tells his disciples, while promising that the Holy Spirit will be our guide to truth, our help to bear the unbearable. But even with the Holy Spirit, there are divine mysteries our human brains cannot fathom or explain. If we are to be people of faith, we must become comfortable with mystery. I don’t mean to be dismissive of the struggle with mystery, because we all have our doubts. But the ineffable Trinity reminds us that sometimes, heartbursting wonder is enough. 

© Liturgical Press.

Valerie Schultz

Valerie Schultz is a freelance writer and award-winning essayist. She is author of the recently released book Overdue: A Dewey Decimal System of Grace.

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