What is Trinity Sunday?
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, called “Trinity Sunday,” is celebrated one week after Pentecost. This feast was made universal in 1911. Prior to 1911, there were private devotions, certain liturgical prayers and prefaces, and hymns in the liturgy.
There was an Office of the Holy Trinity written by Bishop Stephen of Liege in the 10th Century, but there was not a universal feast of the entire Church until Pope John XXII instituted one as a second-class feast in the 14th Century. In 1911, Pope St. Pius X elevated the feast to first-class.
After the first Pentecost, the doctrine of the Trinity was given to the entire world through the ministry of the Apostles, led by the Holy Spirit. And so, Trinity Sunday, rightly follows Pentecost Sunday in the Church calendar.
Here are three ideas of how to celebrate Trinity Sunday!
Recite the Athanasian Creed
Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, it was customary to pray the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday. This Creed is slightly older than the usual Sunday Mass Creed (the Niceno-Constantinopolitan “Nicene” Creed).
St. Athanasius was a Greek Church father in the 3rd and 4th centuries. He was the chief defender of the Church against the Arian heresy. Arianism is a heresy that centers on the nature of Jesus Christ, but it also is a denial of the Trinity. As such, St. Athanasius was a staunch defender and explainer of Trinitarian orthodoxy. Therefore, the Creed that bears his name is so important to the life of the Church in praying and worshiping God correctly as Trinity.
The Athanasian Creed has been used in the Church’s Liturgy. This ancient profession of Faith in the Trinity can be found in full here:
“Now the catholic faith is that we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit; the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet not three eternals but one eternal, as also not three infinites, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinite. So, likewise, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet not three almighties but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; and yet not three Gods but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; and yet not three Lords but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, there be three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. So there is one Father not three Fathers, one Son not three Sons, and Holy Spirit not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, but the whole three Persons are coeternal together and coequal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped. He therefore who wills to be in a state of salvation, let him think thus of the Trinity.”
Pray the “Glory Be” Prayer
The Gloria Patri known as the “Glory Be” or “Glory Be to the Father” is a short hymn of praise taken from the Liturgy. This prayer goes all the way back, in the East and the West, to the 4th Century. There are some minor variations between the different versions, but the hymn of praise is the same.
The Gloria Patri in Latin is:
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
The standard version in the English-speaking world when reciting the prayer outside of the liturgy is:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The version from the Latin Liturgy of the Hours goes:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
As an aside, considering the phrase “world without end” is an invention of the Protestant King James Version of the Bible, I tend to like the Liturgy of the Hours version more.
My favorite translation is the version used in English-speaking Byzantine Catholic prayer:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.
Whichever one you decide to pray: pray it with devotion and faith!
Listen to “O heilges Geist- und Wasserbad, BWV 165”
O heilges Geist- und Wasserbad (O holy bath of Spirit and water) was written in 1715 by Johann Sebastian Bach in honor of Trinity Sunday. This cantata is a sermon in song. The words, written by Salomon Franck, move through images and themes of Sacred Scripture, Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, and the saving grace of the Triune God. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the mediation of Jesus Christ we are made sons and daughters of the Father.
The words of the cantata are in German, but the video linked from the Choir and Orchestra of the J.S. Bach Foundation have subtitles to help us pray the text.