SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Were today not the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity we would be celebrating the feast of Saint Rita, heavenly patroness of our dear Sister Marie-Rita du Saint-Sacrement. But today Saint Rita disappears into the glory of the Trinity. What feastday grace can we ask for our Sister today? We might ask that she too be hidden ever more deeply in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. We might ask that in the midst of her many tasks about the monastery her life become all doxology: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Heaven is nothing else. Let us begin eternity’s ceaseless doxology on earth.
In the first reading Moses shows us the way. He rises “early in the morning” (Ex 34:5). You recall what God had said to him: “Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain” (Ex 34:2). God asks for readiness in the morning. He bids us come up in the morning to Mount Sinai. He asks that we present ourselves to him on the top of the mountain. How are we to understand these commands to Moses?
Christ himself is our morning. You know Saint Ambrose’ marvelous hymn for the office of Lauds, Splendor Paternae Gloriae:
For the soul who lives facing Christ it is always morning. For the soul who lives in the brightness of his face it is always a new day. If Christ is your morning it is never too late to start afresh.
God’s summons us to the top of the mountain. Christ himself is our mountain. Christ is the high place from which earth touches heaven; Christ is the summit marked on earth by the imprint of heaven’s kiss. If your feet are set high on the rock that is Christ you are held very close to the Father’s heart, for Christ is the Son “who is in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18). “I am in the Father and the Father in me” (Jn 14:11).
“Present yourself there to me” (Ex 34:5), says God. What is God saying if not, “Offer yourself to me there through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ.” God’s three commands to Moses are fulfilled for us in the mystery of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is the light of the Church’s day. Mother Marie-Adèle Garnier, the foundress of the Tyburn Benedictines in London, called the Mass “the Sun of her life.” Without the Eucharist we have neither warmth nor light. Without the Eucharist there is no new day, no morning, no possibility of starting afresh. That is why the Christian martyrs of Carthage when interrogated by Diocletian’s proconsul could only answer, Sine dominico non possumus, “Without Sunday,” that is without the day of the Eucharist, “we cannot go on.” So long as we have the Eucharist we have a new day. So long as we remain faithful to the Eucharist we will have before our eyes Christ, “the Sun of justice who rises with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2).
The Eucharist is the top of the mountain. The Eucharist is where heaven descends to earth. It is the summit of the Church’s life; it is from the rock of the altar that the Church is drawn into the love of things invisible. In the Eucharist we are certain of meeting the Father because the Eucharist is Christ who says, “No one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). The Father waits for us in the Eucharist even as he waited for Moses on the heights of Mount Sinai. There he “descends in the cloud” (Ex 34:5) that is the Holy Spirit to reveal to us his Name and his mystery.
God calls us to the mountain in the morning that we might present ourselves to him then and there. “Present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain” (Ex 34:2). We go to the mountain to be offered. We go to Christ our Altar to be offered upon him. We go to Christ our Priest to be offered by him. We go to Christ our Victim to be offered with him.
The offering takes place under the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit who, “like a bright cloud” (Mt 17:5), covers the mountain. For this we pray in every Mass, asking to be assumed into heaven, begging God to command our quick transport “to his altar on high in the sight of his divine majesty” (Supplices te rogamus, Eucharistic Prayer I). “Present yourself there to me” (Ex 34:5), says God. Saint Paul explains this word, saying, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).
Only after Moses obeys the commands of God by rising early, by climbing the mountain, and by presenting himself there, does the Lord “descend in the cloud and stand with him there, and proclaim the name of the Lord” (cf. Ex 34:5). “The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6).
In this too we are given a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Lord passing before us. The Eucharist is the Lord revealing himself merciful and gracious. The Eucharist is the sacrament of his steadfast love and faithfulness for the Church, his Body and his Bride. In the Eucharist God makes himself known. In the Eucharist he descends to stand by us. In the Eucharist he lays bare the merciful love of his heart.
How does Moses respond to God’s revelation of himself? “And Moses making haste, bowed down prostrate unto the earth, and adored” (Ex 34:8). He adored. Adoration is the only response worthy of God’s self-revelation. For the believer it becomes the only response possible. Out of adoration flows all else. Only adoration allows us to take in the mystery of the Lord’s passing before us.
The text says that Moses “made haste, bowed down prostrate unto the earth, and adored” (Ex 34:8). Why does he make haste to adore? Adoration cannot be delayed. Adoration is urgent at every hour. “The hour is coming and now is,” says Jesus, “when true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For such the Father seeks to adore him” (Jn 4:23). We make haste in going to adoration because the desire of the Father precedes us there. We cannot arrive a moment too soon. The imperative of adoration once understood brooks no delays, admits of no excuses. “Martha went, and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: ‘The Master is come, and is calling for you.’ She, as soon as she heard this, rose quickly, and came to him” (Jn 11:28-29).
In bowing down prostrate to the earth Moses discovers something about himself and about his people. “This is indeed a stiff-necked people” (Ex 34:9). In adoration we discover just how stiff-necked we are, how unbending, how proud, how resistant to grace.
It is for us as it was for Moses. Adoration “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) leads to compunction. Compunction is the grace by which we are pierced through with awareness of our sin. It is an operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul. “The Paraclete when he comes,” says Jesus, “will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn 16:7-8). Compunction in turn leads to the prayer of contrition and to conversion of life: “Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance” (Ex 34:9).
This then is the experience of Moses. It is ours as well. We know nonetheless that after the morning there is the rest of the day, that after the mountain’s height there is the descent into the plain, and that after the offering there is the sacrifice and the communion. In the second reading Saint Paul spells out the consequences of this for us: “Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss” (2 Cor 13:11-12). Thus does the Eucharistic life radiate from the morning into every hour of the day, from the mountain into every valley and plain, from the place of offering into every occasion for sacrifice and communion.
The word “Trinity” is nowhere mentioned in today’s lectionary texts; it is found nowhere in the Bible. The adorable Mystery is nonetheless wondrously present: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, revealed in the morning light, shining on the mountain, summoning us into the Eucharistic life of offering, sacrifice, and communion. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16).
The gift of the Son is renewed in the Eucharist. With the Body and Blood of the Son comes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Communion Antiphon today is a ray of the morning light. Write it on the tablets of your memory. Let it accompany you from the mountaintop into every moment of the Eucharistic life. “Because you are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6). And make haste! It is time to adore.