One of the foremost Catholic doctrines is that of the Trinity. So firmly did the early Church believe in it that all new Christians had to assent to the Apostle’s or later the Nicene Creed in order to be baptized. A large section of our Catechism is devoted to a fuller explanation of all the beliefs surrounding the different members of the Trinity summarized in the Creed.
It is Jesus’ claim to divinity, without it He is just a prophet and a false one at that. If this radical, eternal precept is valid it should have been recognizably prefigured in the Old Testament, at least by hindsight. It was!
When Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai in the presence of God he brought back more than the Ten Commandments. He brought back very specific instructions on how the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle were to be constructed, as well as specific details of liturgical worship. At the very center was the Ark of the Covenant over which the glory of God rested. The Ark was shielded from human eyes by a thick curtain. Once a year on the Day of Atonement could the High Priest enter, and then only after offering sacrifices for his sins and those of the nation. The Ark of the Covenant prefigured the Father, the unseen God.
Just outside the curtain were two other pieces of equipment which were in regular contact with only the priests. The first was the table for the showbread with a loaf for each tribe. There six loaves on one side of the table and six on the other side. There were also cups for the wine libations that were to be poured out. The loaves of showbread after spending some time in the presence of the Lord were to be eaten by the priests. This clearly prefigures Jesus, especially at the Last Supper with the Apostles gathered around the table. There they shared the Bread and the Wine that were changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
During the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine. You are the branches.” This brings us to the other piece of equipment the lampstand. It was made to look like a tree with many branches and flower blossoms that held the oil for the light. I want you to picture Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and tongues of fire appeared over the disciples’ heads. Is it not a visual reminder of the Lampstand? So the Holy Spirit is also there, prefigured by the Lampstand in the Holiest place of Jewish worship.
St. Peter called those who believe in Christ a royal priesthood. We on earth have access to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, the Father remains hidden from our view until we enter into the heavenly realms. There we will truly understand how the Trinity can be one, but for now consider this.
“One” can have different meanings. One can mean solo, single, and solitary. The Creator saw Adam was alone, and said that was not good. When God uses the word “one” He can mean so closely united as to be inseparable. The first time He used that word was in Genesis when He said that man and woman should cleave to each other and become one flesh. This is significant because of what God said when He made man and woman.
And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Humanity’s ability to become one with each other was central to our image and likeness of God. He even used the plural pronouns “us” and “our” to refer to Himself when God created them.
The Jewish people have worshipped unknowingly the Trinity since the beginning of the Jewish liturgical worship. Humanity just didn’t have the experience of the Trinity to see it.
Reference scriptures: Ex. 25, Lev. 24:5-9, John 15:5, 1 Peter 2:9, Gen. 1:26-28
Special credit to Brant Pitre and his book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist
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