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The Blessed Trinity in My Soul

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What is the relationship between the soul in a state of grace and the Blessed Trinity? What does it mean to say that the Trinity comes to dwell in my soul? What is the evidence for the presence of the Blessed Trinity in the soul?


CK:
Hello, and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett your host and we welcome once again, our chaplain father, Hugh Barbour, Norbertine priest, former Prior of St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County. Hello Father Hugh.

FHB:
Hello there.

CK:
Father, I feel like I understand almost everything, but there’s a couple of things I don’t understand.

FHB:
I think you do understand [crosstalk 00:00:25] about your family, Tony.

CK:
I don’t understand the blessed Trinity and I don’t understand my own soul. I would like you to explain in this atmosphere of two things that I do not understand how they relate to one another. How does the Blessed Trinity dwell in me or me in the Blessed Trinity? I don’t know how that works. How do they confer grace to my soul? Please explain that.

FHB:
Oh, it’s a great way to put the question. St August be proud of you. Yes. Yes. Questioning your soul and questioning the God who made it, whose life is a deep and revealed mystery. So that’s perfect. So, great way to start out. An all star at the beginning. Now we say that when we’re in a state of grace, that sort of Catholic speak, we hear a lot state of grace. It means being, or having as a quality of one’s soul habitual grace, meaning it’s an enduring state. That’s only destroyed by grave sin. We say that when we’re in a state of grace, then God, the Blessed Trinity or we could say the Holy spirit, or as it ought to say, the father will come to him. And I will come to him. That is the Holy Trinity dwells in our soul by grace.

And so, and we take that also from St. Peter in his second epistle, he says we’ve been given great and precious promises that we should be made sharers in the divine nature. So, that’s quite a statement to be a sharer in the divine nature, or would we say coheres with Christ? So when we have God’s grace in our soul, whatever that means, we’ll talk about that. It means also that we become the dwelling places, or even the temples as Saint Paul says of the Blessed Trinity of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit. Now that reality is far more concrete than we might imagine, but we might use our imagination to consider what it means. So we have our human soul, which exists as the form of our body. So we’re a composite of soul and body and that soul can operate according to its natural powers.

It gives life to the body and therefore it also gives the power of sensation to our sense organs and then to our inner senses of imagination and memory. And then it has its own proper spiritual powers of the intellect and the will of knowing and loving. So all those things we are able to do that constitutes our life practically is our life, soul, and body with senses, imagination, memory, emotion, will, and understanding. That’s basically all of our experience except for our vegetative functions, which I don’t need to go into. They’re also vital, like sleeping and eating and [crosstalk 00:03:34]. Right, right. That kind of thing. So that natural life that we have, God elevates by the bestowal of his grace, meaning that he gives, you might say to the essence of our soul, almost like a soul of our soul, his divine grace, meaning his actual presence in a new way in our soul making us sharers in the life, which is proper to him.

Now, we just said what our human life is like, that we’re reasoning beings that have the power to love. And that can imagine, remember, have feelings and sense things, all of that. But then God gives us a share in his own divine nature, which of course is utterly and completely disproportionate to our created human nature. It’s so far beyond us that it’s not a kind of life that we could ever acquire on our own. It just is given as a free gift. But when he does that, he does that by effecting the innermost sanctuary of our soul. We sometimes think of grace as being something that we get in our mind or our will to enable us to do something right. But it’s actually a new way of being a new way of existing.

That’s what I would say when you’re in Christ, you’re a new creation. There’s a new way of existing. St. Thomas goes so far as to say that that grace has said to be created. And so far as were created, according to it, namely we’re given a new being out of nothing. That is our human soul becomes also alive with the vital principle, which is the very life of God, himself, infinite, all wise, all pure, always existing, all of those things. So God does that in the essence of our soul, that is not in any of the soul’s powers directly. Like he doesn’t just elevate our intellect or our will or our feelings. He elevates us in our very, being to give us a new life. Now from that life flow forth, all of our powers. So we get the grace of God. And what does that grace do? It flows into our powers so that we have the virtues like justice in the will and temperance in the will and fortitude in the will or the dealing with our passions of fear and pleasure.

CK:
When you say it flows into all these, does it do so immediately or over time?

FHB:
It does so immediately in principle, like when you’re baptized, you get all of that. But then the development of our response, you might say, the cooperating grace of God, as we can continue to act under the influence of his grace, we begin to acquire certain habits, which are a part of that life, that the natural development of that life. But they’re not requirements for it because even like a little child is baptized, he has all of that already, but it develops with that so-called cooperation, meaning that the love of God effecting our operations so that our will as just, and gives teachers do our intellect six wisdom and understanding of divine things and of natural things in the light of God. And our feelings are elevated and moderated by like temperance and fortitude and so on. And so we get, you might say a new life that still operates along the road of our natural life.

Because of course, if God’s going to elevate human nature there, he has to be elevated according to our own dispositions as human beings. And so like the elevation of the life of grace for an angel looks different from that of a human being God’s angels don’t have emotions and they don’t have sense life and all of that. Now, so this, if it sounds a little abstract to the moment when I talked about the very essence of the soul, just consider that God is always present. We know this in the catechism always present in all of his creation in his very essence, that is in his very self, his self identical self because he made all things out of nothing and nothing can continue to exist on this. God is present and operative acting in the depths of the being of whatever thing that exists, down to the last little speck of dust.

So in our soul, then God is always present. He’s present by his essence in the soul, even of the worst sinner or in the spirit of the devil himself. That is because they wouldn’t exist were he not there holding an existence out of nothing. But when we’re given the gift of grace, it doesn’t mean that God wasn’t there before. It means that all of a sudden, you might say, and then also progressively later on, all of a sudden, this hidden life of God, his divine essence, which is present in us, is bursting forth to affect our very existence and our powers and our destiny. That is so that we now no longer through grace, we no longer have a happiness proportionate to human nature alone, but we have happiness proportionate to God’s nature so that we will see God as he really is. And so we’ll know God as God knows God and love God as God loves God.

Not simply as this creature is honoring him as the first cause of all things as the Supreme good and so on and reaching a level of morality that is a proportion to our reason. But so far beyond that as Saint Paul says, I has not seen nor ear heard, nor is it into the heart of any man, what God has prepared for those who love him. And that love is poured into our hearts by the Holy spirit, as the apostle says. So God comes to our soul by a free gift of his grace, giving us a new life at the very essence, the very core of our soul and that life then flows forth into all the other aspects of our existence. Now elevated by grace. And that’s you might say a flowering. So you imagine something that’s dark and quiet soul without God’s grace, the light doesn’t get in the shades are down.

And suddenly someone takes the shades off and that divine presence from within just radiates out to the powers of the soul. So that at that point, everything that the person does using their free will, merits eternal life is pleasing to God, makes them grow in charity, becomes suddenly extremely effective. Whereas before it wasn’t effective at all to reach the happiness, to which God intends to destine us. Yeah. But we often conceive of grace, it’s kind of something God pours into our soul. Yeah. And then we keep it or we lose it, but actually it’s an outward explosion or flowering of that which is deep within us, but for which we need a particular movement of God’s mercy to remove the obstacle, that obstacles that would be there for us to have that life actually flow forth into our whole being.

And so what is the obstacle to God’s grace flowing in our being?

CK:
Sin.

FHB:
Sin. And that’s why sin is like the shades, like at the center of your heart, sin at the center of your being and your heart is your inner being at it’s steps is full of light and full of God because he makes us out of nothing. And it’s by his own power. But sin, we just pull the shades down because sin is more an obstacle than it is a stain or a deformity. Although it is that because it’s not supposed to be there, but it’s easier for us to think of how it works. If we just think of putting the blackout shades down so that that light cannot get out to the rest of our nature. So the actions performed when we are not in God’s grace do not merit eternal life.

They may not be bad in themselves. And that’s a Calvinist error that all the actions of the sinner are sins, even his supposedly good actions. Well, that’s going way too far. But the actions cannot obtain or merit eternal life without the gift of God’s grace. So for that life of grace, that we say that that inner life of God is brought about through the sending or the mission of God, the son and of God, the Holy spirit. Now that means that when God dwells in our soul by grace, this new manner of existing is given to us. And it comes first by the pouring of the Holy spirit who is sent invisibly to the soul sent by the father and the son principally by the father and then with the father as, from the same principle from the son to our soul to inhabit us so as we become temples of the Holy spirit and dwelling places of his grace and his life.

But that’s the effect you might say, that’s why we normally refer to grace as the Holy spirit dwelling in us. But Christ is the author of the salvation whereby we become Holy and receive grace. And so his sending was principally, not only, but principally a visible mission that as God, the son took a visible human nature. So as to preach and heal and reveal, and then suffer and die for us and rise. So as to reveal the nature of this divine life, to which we’re called and the type of behavior that we need to have in order to conserve that life in us to institute the sacraments and his Holy church, so that the life of grace and the dwelling of the Trinity and the soul could be accomplished in the whole human race.

And that begins our Christian life with baptism in the name of the father and the son and the Holy spirit, making us temples of the Holy Trinity. And then it continues all the way until we’re perfectly purified and enter into the vision of God by the light of glory. First, we have the light of grace, faith and charity. And then we have the light of glory at the end as our reward.

CK:
The way you describe it makes it seem that the most important things that happen in our lives do not happen on a level that any of our five senses can perceive. We can’t see it, hear it, taste it, touch it, or smell it.

FHB:
Yes. That’s very true. There’s no doubt about it. However, we’re not asked to understand or believe those things without any reference to our senses.

CK:
I’ll give you the experience of my confirmation. Honestly, I didn’t have any sense of the value of my confirmation until I was almost 50 years old. And suddenly I realized it had had tremendous power, but I had never experienced it. So this is working from the inside outward. And so sometimes it takes a long time for it to manifest so that you can say, that’s what that is. That’s what that experience is. I think that’s also true for many people with the Eucharist who may receive the Eucharist year after year after year and not understand the power that it is conferred in their soul, maybe ever. I mean, but maybe even not in a small way for a long, long, long, long time.

FHB:
Yeah. What you’re talking about is some what theologian sometimes called remiss acts, meaning that you’re in the state of grace, you’ve got the grace of the sacrament in you, but your actions while you’re in grace are not up to the level of the fervor that you’re capable of giving what God has given you.

CK:
There’s my life story. Right?

FHB:
Right. That’s true with most of us. And so, but that doesn’t mean, so this is really important to remember that even when we’re been inattentive to our faith and just sort of practice it kind of formulaically, but sincerely, but we were not particularly fervent. We tend to think when we finally get some special movement of grace to be more devout, more prayerful, more appreciative of the sacraments and God’s power and all of that, to think that what came before was just kind of useless.

It’s not. That is you, your actions are still meritorious before God, he’s still pleased with you overall. He’s still leading you by his grace, but the normal logical development is that in the spiritual life, is that if you act with a certain fervor or intensity, then the love of God in its manifestation increases in your life. And pretty much immediately, there’s an actual increase all along. If we were living according to the level that we had received, or even a little bit close to it.

Someone like the blessed mother sanctity grew exponentially because she never did anything without bringing into it, the full measure of a charity. So each day, when she swept the floor, it was a million times more loving and meritorious than it was the day before. That’s the way her life was. And so God waits for particular events in our lives, providentially or particular movements of his spirit. And then he’ll gives us sort of all at once the full degree of the increase of charity that we really already have coming to us, but God waits until there’s the proper moment to kind of make it all actual. And sometimes that happens in purgatory. What happens later?

CK:
So I guess what I’m asking though, is that this happens very… You even use the term, the soul of the soul kind of, the essence level of the soul.

FHB:
That’s true. It’s closer to me than I am to myself.

CK:
But if you said the soul of the soul, well, you would think that is the far from part of the soul that is in contact with my five senses. So what are the evidences that people point you to say, the sacramental life is having an effect. I can know by faith that it’s having an effect, I know that’s the most important thing know by faith, that Christ is saving me, but are there things that people point to and say, well, you become more like this, do you see what I’m saying?

FHB:
Yeah, of course. And our Lord on the occasion, when he instituted the chief of the sacraments and the sacrament of sacraments, the blessed Eucharist. He said a new commandment I give you, love one another, as I have loved you. If you love me, keep my commandments. So, and his commandment is to love precisely as he loves. So the chief sign of spiritual progress is a loving conformity to God’s will. Which doesn’t mean we have to figure out what God’s will is. Sometimes people think that’s what it means, but it doesn’t because sometimes we can’t figure that out. We just need to be disposed, meaning that we never want to offend God. And we’re sorry, when we do. And then we obey his commandments and his commandments, the apostle says are not burdensome. And then along with that, of course, that’s maintained by the normal means of grace that we have. Daily prayer, meditation on the truth of the faith, a little bit of penance too, and works of mercy, working for our neighbor. That’s what the Bible says we’ll be judged on.

He doesn’t give us a sort of charismatic style. And I don’t mean like that in a bad sense, but I’m a sort of dramatic, mystical, last judgment where we’re all judged on how many gifts of grace we had. He doesn’t depict it that way, even though that’ll be true in a certain sense. He says I was hungry and you fed me and I was thirsty and you gave me to drink and I was naked and you clothed me and I was in prison and you visited me. So, he makes the criteria in a very concrete one. And so if you want to know, well, what’s the evidence. Well, how do you treat people? Is that what it says by this men will know that you are my disciples, that you’re able to recite the [inaudible 00:20:03] and every article.

CK:
No, that’s not what he said no.

FHB:
He said by this all will know that you’re my disciples by the love that you have for one another. This is the proof. Okay. And so we never can separate that super Catholic stuff that we’re usually talking about. The sacraments, the mysteries of the faith and all that from the simple evidence of the charity in our hearts poured out with Holy spirit and our constant efforts to judge charitably like avoiding rash judgment. That’s a hard one, right? Avoiding resentments. That’s a hard one. All right. Not being proud or irritable or angry. These are things that we…

CK:
I fell like, you’re looking right at me when you say these things.

FHB:
By the way, just apropos of resentments, which of course is not a problem for most people. But for me, it is. So maybe for you. So regarding resentments, I’m joking about that for most people think I’m just talking about once you get above a certain age. Well, actually even little kids can be kind of resentful but an expectation read of somebody else is a resentment and construction

CK:
Oh, what a wonderful way to think about it. Yes. I expected more from you.

FHB:
You didn’t say anything, but you had this, romantic idea of how it was supposed to be. This is how I thought the evening would be like, or I thought this, or I thought that, and the poor person was never asked if he or she wanted to do this or that you had the expectation unspoken. And when they don’t meet it, you’re angry at them. This is catch 22 for the poor person that you’re angry at. And so many of our resentments are like that. And then when there’s an actual confrontation of the problem, you’ll say you always blah, blah, blah, you always, blah, blah, blah. And the poor person is left there going, gosh, I had no idea.

It wasn’t in the job description. Let me find this, maybe we need to sit down and talk about our expectations. But that’s a daily struggle, but that kind of thing that is working continually on our love of God and neighbor. But as St. John says, how can you say you love the God you don’t see when you don’t love the brother whom you do see. And many of us are deceived in this way, especially in the current context where so much in the church has to do… It’s natural to be ideological. There’s so much heterodoxy, their bishops and Cardinals even spouting heresies. And there all kinds of liturgical problems and whatnot. And then air is against church’s moral teaching and all kinds of stuff. And so we can get really cranky in propounding our orthodoxy and begin to attribute every conceivable vice and evil to people we don’t even know.

Now, granted, there is a lot of vice and evil, but some people feel like they’d get a pass because some priests and even bishops have misbehaved, that they can just speculate about everybody else because it’s happening. Well, this isn’t charitable because that’s an individual human being that you’re supposed to love as Christ loves him. And if you don’t know, that’s true for a fact and knowing that this bad thing is true for a fact, you have the obligation or it pertains to you to do something about it. And usually it doesn’t. Then you’re just committing a sin against charity and maybe even a mortal sin. The only mortal sins are not the ones against chastity. Okay. It’s a lot easier to commit a mortal sin against charity than people realize. And when your Bishop does something you don’t like, and so you go on a diatribe about everything else, making him out to be Satan himself, you better stop quickly and take your last chance for that kind of talk not to be a mortal sin, you need to think about it.

Because we’re allowed to complain and to vent and to give our opinion, but we will be stronger and more courageous and wiser in our, a [possible 00:24:09] in the church, both priests and lay people if we were more charitable. There’s no way that being more charitable, you’re going to weaken the defense of the faith. That’s just nonsense.

CK:
Beautifully said, I love it.

FHB:
So that’s the proof. So if you believe all the mysticism of Teresa of Avila and John of the cross and the desert fathers and Elizabeth Trinity and on and on and on, if you believe all that stuff, because that’s our Catholic tradition. And if you believe that, that’s what fueled the counter reformation, all these saints with these fantastic mystical lives who live the life of the Blessed Trinity and prayed and whatnot. If you believe that, then you need to recognize that part of that Catholic orthodoxy is love of neighbor and work on it. That’s the evidence.

CK:
That’s the evidence. I suppose there’s a certain way in which some people are born with a really sour disposition, for example. And many people know it. They know themselves to be sour. You might say, well, I’m getting less that way. I’m not mother Teresa, but I’m less sour than I was.

FHB:
Well, we’re supposed to be making progress. We don’t have to be perfect all at once. That comes at the very end for most of us. Yeah. But we need to make st. Saint Francis says, in spiritual life, you’re either progressing or you’re regressing. You really can’t stand still for very long. So we need to make progress. So I have the secret for taking care of all of that, but I will mention it right away.

CK:
No, I got to know the secret.

FHB:
Continue with your other questions and I’ll give it to you at the end.

CK:
Oh, you’ll give it to me at the end.

FHB:
Yeah.

CK:
My only question is about a book of revelation standing at the door of my heart knocking, and then I’ll come in and I’ll dine with you. The opening the door is the main part we do. He knocks. And then he comes in and dines with us. I assume that this-

FHB:
He will dine with me and I will die with him. Okay.

CK:
But this refers to this, what you’re talking about. This is what Jesus is making reference to, is coming in to the very core of myself. And there’s a feast kind of that happens when he’s there.

FHB:
Right. Exactly. And that’s what you find in St. John’s gospel. In other words, the last supper discourse. The coming of the father. If you love me, keep my commandments and I will pray the father and he will send you another comforter that’s all right there to dwell with you forever. I mean, it’s very, very clear that’s the life that we’re being given by our Lord. But in the apocalypse, Sarah revelation, it says right in that same context, those whom I love, I rebuke and chastise. And then soon after it says, behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice open to me and I will sup with him and he with me. That’s just about everything. Yeah.

CK:
Yeah. But the, the opening the door, because you’re a Thomas, you can think abstractly, I have to think metaphorically, the metaphor of opening the door

FHB:
Theology is metaphorical. Mostly even St. Thomas says that. They are on the right track. Because when you’re talking about mysteries that go beyond human experience, you have to use human experience. So you have to use metaphors. [crosstalk 00:27:21] He taught them in parables.

CK:
The opening the door then is the keeping his commandments and, and living the sacramental life.

FHB:
Well, that’s certainly part of it that might be after you opened the door, that would be the movement of divine grace, a movement of love towards the savior, being drawn to him by God’s grace. And then that would, of course, then redound to your other activities and so on. But I think the first movement is of love.

CK:
Okay. Now tell me the secret of life. Is that what you are going to tell me?

FHB:
No, not the secret of life, but the secret of dealing with all of this stuff. What’s the evidence that I’m ever going to be a Saint?

CK:
Well, it does seem to be paltry.

FHB:
Well, so what’s the evidence and don’t these sacraments work after all these years? It’s not magic folks. It’s a relationship with the savior for which he gives this powerful means and he’s very patient and the fires of the purgatory are patient too. So just think.

CK:
I’m less enthusiastic about that.

FHB:
Right? Exactly. Now one thing st. Thomas is about that is just help the souls in purgatory as much as you can in this life. And then you will receive great assistance after you die. That’s just only fair. So have a devotion to the departed because they need your help. They can’t help themselves anymore. They have the blessed trinity dwelling in their souls, but they need this purification, but then they’re no longer able to do what we’re able to do since they can’t pray effectively or do anything to improve their case. And so we can do that for them. But the big secret for all this is, if you’re stuck and you feel like the church’s teaching on the life of grace and dwelling of the Holy Trinity and all that can follow from it, which goes to the whole, all the levels of prayer and mystical life and all kinds of wonderful things that we can read about. But we say, well, I’m never going to have that. You never know. But the thing to do is to have recourse to, fill in the blank…

CK:
The blessed mother?

FHB:
There you go. You didn’t say drink or television is very very good.

CK:
My mind was two things confession or the blessed mother. And I went with the mother.

FHB:
Because confession may be too much for you at the moment. So you need an extra special help like I can’t even get myself to go to confession. So you would call out to her, now you do that consistently. She’s the one who was overshadowed by the Holy spirit. She’s the archetype of the blessed Trinity dwelling in the soul of the Christian, because she is the first Christian absolutely in God’s plan. And she, in the holiness God gave her drew down the Holy spirit upon her in such a way that God himself, God, the son was sent visibly in human nature. So she knows how this works. And it worked in her life with a power and a magnitude and an elegance that we can hardly imagine. But she is the mother of mercy. And she’s only interested in helping us as a refuge of sinners.

So we need to go to her and go to her quickly rather than slowly. And if anything suggest to you that’s a little too much, then you have to just say, get behind me Satan. Because you’ll always hear those objections like, well, I really should be talking to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t mind that you’re talking to his mother. Okay. He set it up that way. He worked his first miracle at her intercession and even showed a little reluctance to show the extreme effectivity of her prayers that he seems to advance his hour because she asked and all she wanted to do was keep a couple from embarrassment, it would appear. So she can take care of the little stuff and she can take care of the big stuff very well. So I say, go to her and you will become a dwelling place of the Holy Trinity.

And then you will be, you’ll find out to your surprise and heaven, how intense and how real that was, that your life in the Holy Trinity is more alive than the life you experienced. And it’s closer to you than you are to yourself. It’s that new name written on the little white stone apocalypse that..

CK:
That’s who I am.

FHB:
Yeah. I never knew who I was in God’s plan.

CK:
Praise God. Thank you, father.

FHB:
You are welcome, God bless. Peace

CK:
As Always, Thank you Father. And thank you to everybody who listens to Catholic Answers Focus. We appreciate it, if you are able to support this podcast, we’d appreciate that too. You can go to give catholic.com. Also, your prayers are greatly appreciated as is your five star review. If you’ve got five stars and you want to drop five stars on us, wherever you get this podcast, we’ll see you next time, god willing right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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