June 14, 2000
The Trinity in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
1. In its pilgrimage toward full communion of love with God, the
Church presents itself as a "people congregated by the unity of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." This stupendous
definition of St. Cyprian (De oratione Domini 23; cf. LG 4)
introduces us into the mystery of the Church, made a community of
salvation by the presence of the triune God. Like the ancient
people of God, it is guided in its new Exodus by the pillar of
clouds by day and the pillar of fire by night, symbols of the
constant divine presence. In this horizon, we will contemplate
the glory of the Trinity, which makes the Church one, holy,
catholic, and apostolic.
2. The Church is firstly one. Baptized persons are, in fact,
mysteriously united to Christ and made into his mystical Body by
the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Vatican Council II affirmed, "the supreme model and the
principle of this mystery is the unity of the Trinity of persons
within the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (UR 2). This
unity has also seen the painful trial of many divisions in the
course of history, as well. Its inexhaustible Trinitarian source
always encourages the Church to live more deeply that "koinonia"
or communion that shone in the first community of Jerusalem (Cf.
Acts 2:42; 4:32).
From this perspective ecumenical dialogue receives light from the
moment in which all Christians are aware of the Trinitarian
foundation of communion: "Koinonia is the work of God and has a
markedly Trinitarian character. Initiation in the Trinitarian
koinonia has its point of departure in Baptism, by means of
faith, through Christ, in the Spirit. The means that the Spirit
has given to sustain koinonia are the Word, the minister, the
sacraments, and charisma"(Perspectives on Koinonia, Report of the
3rd Five Years (1985-89) of Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue, n.
31). For this reason, the Council reminds all the faithful that
"the closer communion we have with the Father, the Word, and the
the Holy Spirit, the more intimate and easy will it be to
increase our mutual fraternity" (UR 7).
3. The Church is also holy. In Biblical language, more than the
expression of the moral and existential sanctity of the faithful,
the term "holy" recalls the consecration carried out by God
through the election and the grace offered to his people. Thus,
it is the divine presence that "consecrates" the community of the
faithful "in the truth" (Cf. John 17:17,19).
The most elevated sign of this presence is constituted by the
Liturgy, which is the epiphany of the consecration of the people
of God. Here, there is the Eucharistic presence of the body and
blood of the Lord, but also "our Eucharist, that is, our giving
thanks to God, praising him for having saved us from death and
making us participants in eternal life through the resurrection.
Such worship directed to the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, accompanies and permeates the Eucharistic Celebration.
Still, it should fill our temples" and the life of the Church
(Dominicae Coenae, n. 3). Precisely "when we communicate in
mutual charity and praise of the Most Holy Trinity with one
another, we correspond to the intimate vocation of the Church and
participate with a foretaste in the Liturgy of eternal glory" (LG
4. The Church is catholic, sent to proclaim Christ to the whole
world in the hope that all the heads of the people will join with
the people of the God of Abraham (Cf. Ps 47:10; Mt 28:19). As
Vatican Council II states, "the pilgrim Church is missionary by
nature, inasmuch as it carries the origin of the mission of the
Son and of the mission of the Holy Spirit, according to the
design of God the Father. This design gushes from the "fount-like
love" of God the Father, who being beginning without beginning,
from whom the Son is generated and from whom the Holy Spirit
proceeds through the Son, through his immense and merciful
goodness creates us freely and calls us to participate in life
and his glory without cost. He has given liberally and does not
cease to radiate divine goodness, so that he that is the creator
of all can also be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28), simultaneously
gaining his glory and our happiness" (AG 2).
5. The Church, finally, is apostolic. According to Christ's
command, the Apostles had to go out and teach all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he commanded
(Cf. Mt 28:19-20). This mission is extended to the whole Church,
which through the Word, made alive, luminous, and effective by
the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments, "realizes God's plans, to
which Christ consecrated himself in a spirit of obedience and
love, to the glory of the Father who sent him, that is, the
constitution of the entire human race into God's only people, its
reunion into the one body of Christ, its building into the only
temple of the Holy Spirit" (AG 7).
The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is the people of
God, body of Christ, and temple of the Holy Spirit. These three
Biblical images luminously point to the Trinitarian dimension of
the Church. All the disciples of Christ are found in this
dimension, called to live it ever more profoundly with an ever
more living communion. Even ecumenism finds its firm foundation
in the Trinitarian reference, because the Spirit "unites the
faithful with Christ, mediator of every gift of salvation, and
gives them, through him, access to the Father, whom they can call
"Abba," Father in the same Spirit (Joint Roman Catholic-
Evangelical Lutheran Commission, The Church and Justification, n.
64). Thus, in the Church, we find a great epiphany of Triniarian
glory. We accept, then, the invitation St. Ambrose made to us,
"Arise from sleep, you who once were reclining. Rise up, and come
running to the Church: the Father is here, the Son is here, and
the Holy Spirit is here" (In Lucam VII).