The other day, as I was studying a passage from Haggai read at daily Mass, the Trinity jumped out at me from the Hebrew page: “Be strong ... for I am with you. This is the Word I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit is standing in your midst: do not be afraid!” (2:4-5). Here is an I, a Word, and a Spirit.
Jews of the time likely would not have recognized the Trinitarian name, but we, looking back, find Him here. This is a momentous point in Israelite history: the Israelites have been exiled in Babylon and have lost everything, and God is promising them a renewal of the Mosaic promises that seemed irrevocably broken, a renewal of the power that destroyed Pharaoh’s army, when that power seemed to have vanished irretrievably. And in this moment of renewal, we discover that the One who does these things is also Three.
It brought me to the text attributed to St. Patrick and often called, after St. Paul’s memorable imagery in Ephesians 6:11, his “breastplate”: “Against all Satan's spells and wiles, / Against false words of heresy, / Against the knowledge that defiles, / Against the heart's idolatry … / I bind unto myself the name, / The strong name of the Trinity; / By invocation of the same. / The Three in One, and One in Three, / Of whom all nature hath creation, / Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.” The glory of this text, worth reading in its entirety, is its blithe boldness: girded with this invincible name, Patrick can fear no demonic power in the land he is struggling to win from paganism to truth.
The power of this name came home to a few of us Sisters this summer, when we asked a priest to bless holy water for us. Father happened to undertake this in a well-trafficked location during a conference we were attending and used the older formulae of exorcism and blessing: “God’s creature, water, I cast out the demon from you in the name of God the Father almighty, in the name of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. May you be a purified water, empowered to drive afar all power of the enemy, in fact, to root out and banish the enemy himself, along with his fallen angels.” We were moved to hear creation addressed and commanded by its Trinitarian Creator, through His priestly intermediary. This is, in miniature, the “Let there be light” of Genesis, in which the Father spoke the Word, as the Spirit hovered.
After exorcising and blessing the water, Father spontaneously sprinkled it on some chance passersby, and they erupted into joyous laughter, not so much surprised as delighted. Their gladness was clearly a fruit of the Spirit, on whom we had just called. We, too, can rejoice freely, knowing that the powerful name of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — protects and watches over us.
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.