As Catholics, the most common expression of our faith is when we cross ourselves with the words ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Most people probably don’t even think about it; the words and the actions just come automatically. Even when we say grace before meals, our action of crossing ourselves and saying those words is almost a subconscious segue from what we were doing to our prayer. And yet, those words are the core of our faith.
First of all, they declare our belief that God exists! Not only that, but that He has come to us and revealed to us that He exists. He takes an interest in His creation. He is concerned that we come to know who He is. He is in dialog with us.
Second, they declare that God is a relationship, a family. He exists as three persons in one God. We don’t say ‘In the names of’ no, the words are ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.
The third declaration, which comes out of the first two is that God is perfect love. Let’s unpack this declaration. As God, He is the absolute totality of creation, He is perfection. As a triune God, one who is dialog, family; He is the perfection of a family. A family is a dialog of love (or is judged by their ability to dialog love). So, as the perfection of family, God is the perfection of love, perfect love. What God is, what perfect love is, is not any love, for there are many uses of the word love, but self-giving love, agape.
Finally, we are led by first three declarations to another declaration. That His self-giving relationship is not just within Himself but outwards as well. We can’t mention the trinity, and especially the second person of the trinity, the Son, without proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son incarnate. And in doing so we proclaim God’s gift of Himself for and to us. His embracing us within the Triune dialog of love.
Our actions of crossing ourselves and using those words proclaims what some call a Trinitarian testimony. Now of course the action of crossing ourselves holds much more about our faith; but these declarations/expressions are the bedrock of our action of crossing ourselves, indeed the bedrock of our faith and should be the bedrock of how we live our lives.
If we acknowledge that God exists – we should strive to grow in our appreciation of He who created us. We should desire to come to understand better our creator who continues to dialog with us, who holds together this creation, especially us. It only makes sense since all of creation and how it works; the nature of everything is by His design.
If we acknowledge this then we should accept that the hermeneutic for understanding God is love; because that is who He is. That is why He created, still creates. That is why He does anything and everything including gifting to us our life, our very being and freewill – love.
If we acknowledge this, then we should be at peace and rejoice that this God, who has revealed Himself to us; who has revealed that He is love; has embraced us into the divine dialog of love within Himself. We are not strangers outside looking in, we are family.
All of this from just fifteen words and two movements of our right hand. Two quick gestures and a few words proclaim the most important and powerful truth of eternity. So I have to ask myself: Why do I still have trouble appreciating and dedicating myself to these words that I so often use?
God help me, give me the wisdom to embrace what I say so often.