I love the Church Year. I love how it divides time into meaningful celebrations, how major feasts are decorated with the flourishes of weeks before and after, as though Christmas and Easter were still points around which tendrils entwine, blossoming. The tides, those weeks framing these great festivals, prepare us, and allow us time to celebrate.
Today is the First Sunday after Trinity, or Trinity 1 as some call it, and we are entering the season of Trinitytide, running several months, the longest season in the Church Year. It’s liturgical color is green, for growth in our life with God.
Our preacher last week mentioned how Advent/Christmas through Easter/Pentecost recalls and re-enacts Christ’s life on earth, the Incarnation, when God took on human form. We follow Christ’s birth, His miracles and healings, His words to us. We take part in His way of the cross, His passion, then his death and resurrection. Finally we experience His ascension to Heaven and the coming of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, upon the disciples at Pentecost. With this coming, the Church is born, and we enter a new season, Trinitytide.
Our good preacher also explained that Trinitytide is a theological season, for it is a time when we make sense, consider the meaning, of these great acts of God. We listen to those who have pondered these doctrines for thousands of years in councils and creeds. We seek to learn what these acts of salvation do for us. We grow.
Today we learned about a second aspect of Trinitytide, this long season stretching through November. This is a season of love, he said. It is a time when we encounter what it means to love as God loves, what is demanded of us as Christians. Can we love as God did and does? Can we sacrifice all?
I gazed upon the crucifix over the tabernacle and knew I couldn’t. But perhaps with God’s grace, I could begin to pull myself out of myself, to love. My eyes dropped to the white tented tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, and I recalled Thursday’s Corpus Christi Mass, the celebration of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.
It was grace, to be sure, that prompted me to go. Weekday Masses are always a challenge, calling me away from my comfortable routine. But the Eucharist, its power and love, has molded me in so many ways in the last few years that it seemed only fitting that I make the effort to celebrate Corpus Christi, the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And I was glad that I came.
The Host had been placed in a golden monstrance in front of the tabernacle on the altar, set out for “adoration.” We call this “Exposition” or sometimes “Benediction.” It is a time when we can worship the Real Presence of Christ in the Host in a wonderful way, a unique way. I prayed my sorrows, my joys, and my thanksgivings, and was comforted and strengthened.
I recalled that Corpus Christi Mass as I gazed today upon the tabernacle, the pieces of salvation suddenly fitting together perfectly. We were in the octave of Trinity Sunday, having just celebrated Corpus Christi, and now we considered the meaning of it all, that God is with us now, today, in the Eucharistic bread and wine.
We turned to the Gospel for the day, one of the “hard saying” passages, and I wondered what this priest visiting from Napa would make of it. It is one of the times Christ speaks explicitly about Hell and Heaven and their impossible impasse. We don’t want to hear about Hell, least of all from Christ. Saint John’s Epistle, however, was all about the love of God. As our preacher continued in a gentle but firm voice, he explained this impasse, the great gulf separating Heaven and Hell, as C.S. Lewis called “the great divorce.” It is God’s forgiveness, our priest said, that allows us to enter Heaven. God cannot undo our misdoings, but He can forgive.
And of course, Hell is being apart from God, a state I knew all too well. I too had experienced such separation, each time I didn’t love enough. It is a cold place to be.
I turned to the tabernacle, recalling again the golden monstrance containing the white Host in the Corpus Christi Mass. Today I would be nourished by God, I would partake of that Host. Indeed, I would partake of Heaven right here on earth.
On this First Sunday after Trinity I sensed I had entered a green meadow. I would cross it slowly, through the months of June, July, August, September, October, and November. I would consider who this great God truly is. Through the Church, and her season of growth, I would be fed by grace. I would know joy.