The Word Among Us

Personal Spirituality Resources

Contemplate the Trinity

It’s the way to happiness.

By: Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.

Contemplate the Trinity: <em>It’s the way to happiness.</em> by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.

It is time to shout to the world that the Trinity is first and foremost joy and happiness. And contemplating the Trinity can overcome the great unhappiness of the world.

God is happy! St. Augustine says that God is happy and makes people happy. Happiness is part of the very mystery of his being. Being the highest good, he is also the highest and infinite happiness. St. Francis of Assisi exclaims, “You are joy; You are . . . joy” in his “Praises of God.”

God is happiness for the very same reason that the Trinity is happy: because he is love. Happiness, in fact, is to love and be loved. God, from all eternity, loves his Son with an infinite love, and the Son returns that love with an equally infinite love. The Father finds “all his pleasure,” that is, his happiness, in him. Since God is happy, he does everything that he does with joy: he creates with joy (see Job 38:7), he saves with joy, and he even suffers with joy.

The Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts (see Romans 5:5). At the same time, the Spirit pours into them the happiness of God that is inseparable from this love. Because of that, one of the first fruits that is produced in our souls is joy (Galatians 5:22). The happiness of God is like an overflowing river whose streams “gladden the city of God” (Psalm 46:5)—the Church.

We all want to be happy. Just in hearing the word “happiness,” people perk up and look to see if, by chance, you are able to offer something for their thirst. This is the one thing that unites all people, without exception, whether they are good or evil. No one, in fact, would be evil if he or she did not hope to be happy through that evil thing.

We carry the desire to be happy engraved on our hearts, because God has created us in his image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26), and since he is perfect happiness, he made us for happiness too.

But then, we ask ourselves, why are so few people truly happy? And even those who are, why are they happy for such a short time? It is not difficult to discover where the error lies. Scripture tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8); people have believed they can reverse the statement and say, “Love is God”! Revelation tells us that God is happiness; again people invert the order and say, “Happiness is God”!

But what happens when we do this? Human beings do not know happiness that is pure, absolute, eternal, and transcendent, just as they do not know absolute love. They know fragments of happiness, which are often reduced to temporary intoxications of the senses, joys that are like fragile glass that always risks being shattered into fragments from one moment to another. In this way people deify the experience of joy and make it an idol.

This explains why whoever seeks God always finds joy, while the person who seeks joy does not always find God, but often finds only “broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). St. Augustine says, “you have made us and drawn us to yourself.” It is the whole Trinity that has made us; the Trinity is the Creator-God of Christians. We have been made for the Trinity, and our hearts will be restless until they rest in it.

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., is a well-known Franciscan Capuchin preacher and writer. This selection is adapted from his book Contemplating the Trinity: The Path to the Abundant Christian Life (The Word Among Us Press, 2007).