Monsignor Liam Kelly’s Homily for Trinity Sunday, 7 June 2020, Cathedral of SS. Patrick & Felim, Cavan
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Skellig Michael is an island about eight miles off the coast of Kerry which has become famous in recent times because some Star Wars filming has taken place there. In fact it is more a large rock jutting out of the sea than an island. But it is a very imposing rock, rising to a point out of the water like a great natural cathedral. To look at it you would think that no one could ever climb the rock, never mind live on it. And yet for almost 700 years there was a community of Irish monks there. They built a stairway of 600 stone steps from sea level right to the top of the island, and there they built their small monastery of beehive huts, stone huts built without mortar, and they built a chapel, the walls of which still stand today.
These monks went to what they thought was the edge of the world to live lives of prayer, lives away from the world and completely devoted to God. There on this weather beaten rock they somehow managed to get enough water and food to survive. But of course Skellig Michael is not the only island with old monastic settlements on it. Many of the islands of the west coast of Ireland, like Innismurray off Sligo, Inisbofin off Mayo and Arranmór off Galway have the ruins of monastic settlements too. And on these islands, cut off from life on the mainland, the monks dedicated their lives to work and prayer and to living out their Christian lives.
But there were monastic settlements on the islands on our lakes too. For example there was a monastery on Trinity Island here in County Cavan, on the Killeshandra side of Lough Oughter. It was on this island that the Premonstratensian order set up their priory in the year 1250 and remained there for about 350 years. All these monks believed strongly in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They began and ended their day and their prayer in the name of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Although the teaching of the Trinity of three persons is at the very heart of our faith we Christians believe in one God. We believe in a God who is, as the reading from Exodus says, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness. God is one, yet God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity of persons in this one God. And today we honour this Holy Trinity in a special feast day.
God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are bound together in a communion of unity and love. And we too must be bound to God and to one another in a similar way. The Second Reading from Paul to the Corinthians emphasizes this: It says: Try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Three persons yet one God. This can be confusing and yet for the most part people are not too troubled with the theological meaning of the Trinity. It is enough to know that God the Father existed before time began and created the world and all that is; that in time he sent his Son Jesus Christ into our world to be our redeemer, to light up our lives and to show us the way, and that when Jesus returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit came to be with us always.
The monks of old made the sign of the cross, blessing themselves in the name of the Trinity almost every hour of the day. Whenever we make the sign of the cross we too do so in the name of that same Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And the truth is, most times we bless ourselves hurriedly, carelessly and without thinking. But if we bless ourselves at the beginning of the day and say a short prayer, then our whole day becomes a prayer. If we bless ourselves as we head out the door, or go on a journey we are asking God to protect us and to bring us safely back home again. If we bless ourselves when we pass the church we acknowledge God’s presence there and when we bless ourselves as we pass the graveyard we remember in prayer our beloved dead buried there. If we bless ourselves before we eat, we acknowledge that both the food and the health to eat it are gifts from God. If we bless ourselves at the end of the day we are doing so with a thankful heart for the day that is past and asking God to bless us with restful sleep.
Blessing ourselves in the name of the Trinity is central to our Christian faith. It is important that we do so regularly and that we do so in a thoughtful and reverent way. And if we bless ourselves with holy water the blessing is greater still because in doing so we are re-enacting our own baptism when water was poured on our heads welcoming us into the Christian community in the name of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today, on this feast of the Holy Trinity, we finish as we began with that lovely greeting to be found in St Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.