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Trinity, Holy, Devotion to


There are few signs of devotion to the Trinity in the early Church, aside from the ritual use of the Trinitarian formula in the administration of the Sacraments. Doxologies of praise are found in the writings of St. Justin (d.166) and Clement of Alexandria (d. 199). St. Basil (d.397) cites a prayer used by Christians when lighting the evening lamps, "We praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (De Spir. Sancto 290.72). A number of early carvings, representing the Trinity or praising it, are dated as of the 4th century [cf. Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, and H. I. Marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 15:2787].

Devotion to the Trinity as it is known today seems to have begun in monasteries at Aniane and Tours, in the 8th century. St. Benedict of Aniane, who spread the devotion through his monastic reform, dedicated his abbey church to the Trinity in 872. And there are references to Masses in honor of the Trinity, at Tours and at Fulda in 796 and 804. A feast of the Trinity was introduced at Cluny in 1091, and at Canterbury by Thomas Becket in 1162. Rome resisted this observance, and it was not until 1331 that the Feast of the Trinity was approved by John XXII for the whole Church.

The revitalization by the early scholastics of the doctrine on the divine indwelling led to many works on the subject and to a devotion to the divine Persons that continues to modern times. SS. Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure brought to light and refined the ancient teachings of the Fathers, especially of St. Augustine, on the personal presence of God in the souls of the just. The application of this doctrine, though interpreted differently by the various theological schools, has emphasized, in the practical order, the central part played by the Trinity in interior life. All spiritual writers since the Middle Ages insist that a living devotion to the Trinity is both an essential means and an accompaniment to true sanctity. This is reinforced by the encyclical of Leo XIII, Divinum illud munus, on the Holy Spirit (May 9, 1897).

Bibliography: f. l. b. cunningham, The Indwelling of the Trinity (Dubuque 1955). b. froget, The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Souls of the Just, tr. s. a. raemers (Westminster, Md.1950). h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 15.2:278792.

[p. mulhern]

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