The Holy Trinity

The prayer of the Sancta Trinitas (Holy Trinity) is abundant in theological, spiritual and moral themes. It was composed by the Founder of the Society, Fr. George Preca, to be recited as a conclusion to our daily meetings of study and prayer .

The beginning is very striking: May the Holy Trinity with its strength keep us in the path of truth and justice. This is the initial address to the whole Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In this way, our Founder is following the Christian Liturgical prayer. Our constant invocation to the Holy Trinity is necessary in order to obtain the gift of discernment. Each Member of the SDC lives in the world, but at the same time they are following Christ. The Member is confronted with a choice which is often dramatic: either to follow in the footsteps of Christ or those of the world with its utilitarian philosophy, and which many people follow unconsciously. The process of following the right path is not possible by human effort alone but only through God's grace. Truth and justice are ideals which all SDC Members ought to strive to attain in order to make their apostolate more fruitful. These virtues are not easy to obtain and practice, and so we need God's help. It is written in Scripture:
If Yahweh does not guard the city, in vain do the guards keep watch
(Psalm 127, 1)

Father George proceeds in his prayer by attributing to each Person of the Trinity a 'mission' in our life. The Father is to guard our minds against unsound teaching, the Son to protect our lips, and the Holy Spirit to detach our hearts from materialism. This attribution of particular roles in man's earthly adventure to each person of the Holy Trinity is very much in line with Catholic traditional theology. In fact, traditional theology attributes creation to God the Father ,redemption to the Son, and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Few reflections on each may help.

May God the Father protect our mind so that it does not absorb harmful thoughts. The mind is the part of the body which stores information. It is also the place where decisions are made. So we pray to the Father in Heaven to guard this magnificent faculty against harmful teaching. We are living in a society which is witnessing a revival of ancient heresies and the cropping up of new ones. So if we do not guard ourselves we may end in formal heresy or unsound teaching which can deal the death blow to our Christian way of life. The SDC Member ought to follow the teachings imparted by the Church in its long tradition, safe-guarded and transmitted to us by the Magisterium. But it is useless to pray God the Father to protect our mind against dangerous doctrines if we are not ready to follow the Gospel teachings and dedicate ourselves to the study of Catholic dogma and morality, and especially the Holy Scripture.

May God the Son protect our lips so that we may not offend our neighbour with words. An Easter fable tells us that a rich man sent his servant to the market place to buy the best thing available. When he was also sent to buy the worst thing, he bought the same item: a tongue. When the servant was asked to give an account of this seemingly contradictory behaviour he replied: The tongue can be a most beneficial instrument when used properly, but it can be extremely harmful if used in an imprudent way. So the sincere Christian ought to keep their lips under tight control, so as not to use them imprudently. Fr Preca must have had in mind how the good habit of the prudent use of the tongue can only be acquired slowly and by constant mortification. Sisoes, a desert Father, is very pessimistic about success in controlling one's tongue. He said:
Have courage. For thirty years I have never prayed to God about sin, but I pray: Lord Jesus, protect me from my tongue. Yet until now I fall daily and sin because of it.
Graham Gould, The Desert Fathers and Monastic Community, 114
We should not feel discouraged when we feel ourselves in serious difficulty to control the use of the tongue, but we should turn to Him who told us: Without me you can do nothing.

May the Holy Spirit protect our hearts so that we do not become attached to materialism in the world. Here Father Preca is quite conscious of speaking of detachment from worldly values. Creation is not wrong - it is the work of the Almighty hand of God. What can be sinful is humanity's attachment to earthly glory, sinful pleasures and uncontrolled cravings for money and power. The heart, in Semitic thought, is traditionally held as the seat of loving. The Scripture says:
You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your thought
Deuteronomy 6,5
Naturally Father Preca is referring to the faculty of loving and not that small organ of the body that pumps blood. It may be also that he had in mind what some Catholic saints said and wrote. For example, St.John of the Cross, the great doctor of the Church, says that to love God, we ought to detach ourselves from all earthly pleasures, even innocent ones so that we may attain the sole object of our love, that is God. It would be suicidal to preach detachment from the world without taking in consideration what we are to acquire. St. Paul says that it would be foolish to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, if there were no resurrection. Gloomy mortification is not in line with the gospel. Ascetism that fits our present way of life makes us happy because it draws our faculties nearer to God.

In the Sancta Trinitas we can trace a perfect similitude of the Trinity from daily life. St.Augustine in his works affirms that memory, understanding and will, although they are three different faculties, are nevertheless one operation in daily life. In the prayer of Holy Trinity of Father Preca, the constituents are mind, lips and heart. These are three different faculties, yet in human operation they form part of one's phsical being. Although it is far from the notions of philosophy, it is very original in its expression. Basically it is biblical, with a Semitic mentality and consequently is very adaptable.

The Sancta Trinitas has a highly theological content but with practical human elements. These two characteristics are typical of Father Preca's charism and reflect the originality of his apostolate.

Angelo Xuereb sdc

Preca Calling - Issue 31 (1996)