by V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
The Divine Liturgy includes three hymns dedicated to the Holy Trinity, one for each Person. What did God do for humanity, and how do we celebrate God’s Holy Trinity?
The three hymns addressed to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity follow:
“Heavenly Father, who did give your Son to death for us, debtor for our debts, by the shedding of His blood, we beseech you, have mercy upon your rational flock.”
“Son of God, who are sacrificed to the Father for reconciliation, bread of life distributed among us, through the shedding of Your blood, we beseech You, have mercy on Your flock saved by Your blood.”
“Spirit of God, descending from heaven, accomplishes through us the mystery of Him who is glorified with You, by the shedding of His blood, we beseech You, grant rest to the souls of those of ours who have fallen asleep.”
These three hymns can be summarized as follows: the Father's mercy, the Son's sacrifice, and the Spirit's grace lead us to salvation and triumph over death.
What does it mean to be a sinner? Sin is a destructive worm. Sin causes death. Before we go any further into the meaning, theology, and spirituality of these chants, let's first consider what it means to be a sinner. Sin is the shadow of death that keeps us away from Christ, source of life. Sin creates distance between man and his God, and also creates a distance between people, by taking away God’s love. St. Paul explains in his letter to the Romans, “[f]or sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.” (Romans 7:11) Sin deprives us of the privilege and grace of being the children of God. If He is the source of life, and we are dying, then we cannot be His children. As a matter of fact, we have no choice other than to die because of our sins. However, Jesus died for us and we die with Him in our hearts, before closing our eyes forever to this world. The parable of the grain of wheat illustrates this point (John 12:24-26).
God paid our debt of sin, by giving His Only-Begotten Son. Christ sacrificed His life, in order to save us from sin and allow us to stand before God. The Holy Spirit keeps us under the umbrella of grace and leads us to God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit guides us to celebrate Christ as the Holy Lamb of God, as we receive Christ. This holy circle represents our salvation from sin and death.
Three things make plants live and grow: water, sunlight, and soil. We are God’s children, and need the Holy Trinity to live grow. Without the Holy Trinity, we arrive at death’s door. When we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, we become part of “the Holy Cycle.” This Divine celebration does not take place on the Holy Altar, but rather in our hearts. Christ descends into our hearts, carries our sins, dies on the Cross, buries Himself in the depths of our souls, and rises with new life. He brings us out of the darkness of sin and into the sunlight. The Holy Spirit prepares the ground for our salvation. Only Christ’s crucifixion, burial and holy resurrection bring us into the Holy Circle.
God is one, but manifests Himself in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He raised us from the ashes of death, to regain His children. He is the stairway, the carpenter and the upper room. God does everything on our behalf. We are simply called to hold the grace of salvation through our faith.
When we understand this truth and let God take root in our hearts, we might feel “water” in our veins. We feel the waters of our pool of Siloam moving and healing us from our sins. (John 9) When we are healed and revived, we should thank our Healer, God. We were made to praise and sing God, as the angels do in the heavens.
Therefore, we praise the Holy Trinity by acknowledging and expressing our gratitude to the three Persons one by one. We enter the circle of joy and salvation. Our hearts leap with joy, because the Holy Sacrifice renews and restores us. No matter who we are or what we have done, we can be a new person! God gives us all that opportunity, even though the act of sin is irreversible. If we can overcome deadly sins, then we should leave all our worries and difficulties behind. We should soak in the graceful moment and allow the Holy Trinity to blend us into the Holy Circle.