The morning was crisp, the earth fed by the rain and now basking in the late spring sun. This year Trinity Sunday falls on Memorial Day weekend, and as I entered Saint Peter’s peaceful nave I recalled the many white crosses dotting our landscape, forming communities of memory on grassy slopes throughout our great nation.
We lost our sons, our brothers, our fathers, our grandfathers, and then our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, one day our grandmothers. Some were forced to war out of economic necessity or military draft, while others idealistically or simply bravely embraced the call to defend our freedoms. Regardless, they all gave me the gift of life here in this good country, and I was deeply thankful. I would remember them.
I gazed upon the American flag, draped softly to the right of the pulpit, on the Gospel side, a quiet strong presence, and I thought how it was this flag – what it stood for – that allowed me to kneel today before the Blessed Sacrament. Those brave men and women fought, and fight today, for my freedom to worship, to assemble, to speak. I prayed that these freedoms would not be taken away, and that we would always honor those who protect us with their lives.
I looked up to the steepled brick apse and its medieval crucifix, then to the white tented tabernacle. I repeated my usual opening prayer, Thank you for the people of this parish, the clergy, and the freedom to worship. We can never give enough thanks for this freedom, I thought. We must never take it for granted.
As the processional hymn struck its first chords, I recalled Trinity Sunday, the glorious celebration of the three-in-one, the mysterious three persons in one God. We sang the thunderous hymn of Saint Patrick, I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity… as the crucifer raised the crucifix high between the torchbearers. The hymn has almost a military tone, a pledging, and we sang together as one, the disparate congregation of young and old, re-affirming our faith together, re-pledging who we were as the People of God.
For we are a people of the Trinity, worshiping, and communing with, our Creator, a God of love who became one of us in the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, and who sends His Holy Spirit, the Third Person, to comfort and strengthen us today. Such perfect love, such perfect union, such redemption of our own fallen natures, our fallen and warring world. It is this God who gave mankind his freedoms, who taught him the worth of the individual, who insisted on the sanctity of life no matter the age. It is this God, revealed through Christ and brought to us today in the Eucharist and the power of the Holy Spirit among us, who gives us rules of law and hearts of mercy.
Will we remain free? Will our culture respect life and liberty? Many signs point to weakness at home, strength abroad. Many signs point to a cultural cancer of self-love that devours sacrifice and ridicules respect.
We sang Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song will rise to thee…, one of my favorite hymns. The melody dances and raises my heart; the words hold me close. The tune hovered in the back of my hearing as we entered the Divine Liturgy, and soon I received the Bread and the Wine, Christ Himself. Soon I knew, with a certainty born only of union with God, that He was indeed Almighty, God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.
Indeed, for in the end this loving God would be victorious, and we, as His people, would be victorious too, reigning with Him in the unity of the three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I made the Sign of the Cross, naming these persons of my God, marking them on my body, and now, each time I make this sign of my faith, I shall be thankful… and a little victorious.
We stepped out into the bright light of mid-day, the sun warm. I glanced back at the steepled brick church. I thought about our sons and daughters at home and abroad. I would remember them with great thanks this Memorial weekend.