In the early days of my discernment of the priesthood, I remember watching a YouTube video where a priest said that when he celebrated his first mass after his ordination, he suddenly realized as he lifted up the Host and the Chalice, that he was literally “standing in the Trinity.”
That was his precise phrase:
“Standing in the Trinity.”
I was really impacted by his words, and the conviction with which he spoke them.
I was reminded of all this yesterday morning, as our bishop joyfully ordained another priest — another father! — Father William Buckley for the Diocese of Richmond
At 11 o’clock this morning — at St. Bridget’s in Richmond — on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Fr. William will say his first mass.
…And he will experience the great joy and privilege for the very first time to “stand in the Trinity” as a priest of Jesus Christ at the altar of the Lord.
But what exactly does this mean? To “stand in the Trinity?”
Well for a priest, it’s rooted in our theological understanding of the Latin phrase, “in persona Christi.”
This phrase “in persona Christi” means “in the person of Christ.” We believe that when the priest speaks the words of consecration: “This is My Body… This is My Blood,” he speaks in the person of Jesus.
He lends Jesus his own voice — and everything that he is — and suddenly it’s not the priest standing there, but the Risen Lord himself. The priest disappears, and now it’s Jesus who says those words:
“This is My Body and My Blood.”
This is true in the other sacraments as well.
It’s Jesus who says: “I absolve you.” “I baptize you.” “Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The priest “takes Christ’s place” so to speak — he “re-presents” Him and steps into that place in which Jesus stands in the Most Holy Trinity as Son of the Father.
And miraculously, God works through him… weak, frail, and sinful as that priest may be!
As Cardinal Pell once quipped, this ensures that “the priest is not the center of the show.”
Jesus is at the center.
It’s Him doing all the work!
And what is that work?
At the Mass, God the Son stands there at the altar, lifting Himself up to God the Father even as he lifted Himself up on the Cross and offered Himself once for all on Calvary. He offers us this same Sacrifice here and now today through the power and presence of God the Holy Spirit.
The entire Trinity — all three Persons — are at work in that simple little sacramental action — that divine action of the Sacrifice of the Mass — the lifting up of the Host and Chalice!
It’s all God’s work — The priest simply gets to “stand in the Trinity!”
What an immense gift.
I pray that many men from our parish of Saint Bede — from your families — consider offering themselves in this way to the Lord. Young men — take a serious look at the priesthood. You owe it to yourself, to the Church, and to God.
The priesthood is not a sad, lonely life. It’s a life handed over to the Most Holy Trinity — with God the Father loving you and protecting you, and the Holy Spirit filling you and inspiring you, and Jesus conforming you to Himself for the salvation of countless souls.
Nobody earns it. Nobody is holy enough for it.
Even for those not called to the ministerial priesthood — your life is still meant to be totally surrendered to and sacrificed in obedience to the Holy Trinity.
Families — I am speaking particularly to husbands and wives — you also “stand in the Trinity” in a unique and beautiful way in the life of the Church as well!
Married love, as we know, is designed by God to be an icon — a living, created image — of Trinitarian love. A husband pours himself out to his wife, and a wife pours herself our to her husband, as the Father pours Himself out to the Son, and the Son to the Father from all eternity.
And from that eternal exchange of love — that totally free, faithful, and fruitful gift of self — a Third Person proceeds. In the Trinity, we call Him the Holy Spirit. In marriage, we call them… kids.
Contrary to what the world might sometimes say these days, children are always a gift, no matter the circumstances. They help reveal to the whole world the Gift of the Holy Spirit Himself!
When taken together — a father, mother and their children — we catch a glimpse of God’s own interior life. As Pope St. John Paul II once said so beautifully: “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family.”
If we begin to understand that, then we can see why it’s so crucial for us to stand firm on the objective reality of marriage as being between one man and one woman, as well as the Church’s consistent and clear teaching on the necessity for spouses to always remain open to life. We also can see how our very biology — our complimentary and unchangeable existence as either male or female — is so incredibly sacred and so holy.
These aren’t arbitrary or bigoted ideas from an outdated mythological system of morality! — It’s the way God designed human beings… male and female… to “stand in the Trinity!”
Take those truths away and we lose our great God-given dignity. We forfeit the meaning of our lives! We reject and deny the “image of God” inscribed into our very bodies! And even worse — we begin to lose sight of who the Lord really is.
I say all of this not from a place of fear, anger or hatred, but from a place of peaceful, unconditional, and sincere love for all people, no matter what their struggles or desires may be.
This is the love of the Sacred Heart of our Lord — which beats for every single person. Desires to save every single person. The Sacred Heart of Jesus, which we joyfully celebrate this month of June, is on fire with love for people of every single walk of life.
This is the fiery love of the Eucharist, which Fr. William will lift up for the first time at the altar this morning.
It’s the same fiery love we heard about in our Gospel this weekend — John 3:16 — which so famously says that:
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
God so loved us, that He sent Jesus the Savior!
God so loved us, that He ordained priests who now stand in the place of Jesus and offer us His Body and Blood!
God so loved us, that He created us male and female, and designed the human family to be so beautiful and good.
God so loved us, that He gives us the privilege, each in our own way, to stand in the Trinity.