"And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne
was set in heaven,
and one sat on the throne" (Revelation 4:2).
What we have here from St. John is not a photograph of God the Father
seated upon his throne, the throne before which our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, offered himself for the salvation of the world. We have,
instead, a spiritual vision and a description of the otherwise indescribable
glory of God expressed in earthly terms.
That throne tells us that the Father is the ruler of all things. Upon
it, the Father is, to look upon, like the "jasper" and the "sardine stone"
(Rev. 4:3). That "jasper," if we translate it as the white diamond, signifies
the perfect purity of God. If we translate it as the green gem, it signifies
Godís perfect mercy, and the hope that his mercy gives to the faithful.
Over the throne, like a great arch, is the rainbow, the sign of Godís covenant
of salvation with man, made perfect in the New Testament established in
the Blood of Jesus Christ (Rev. 4:3; Gen. 9:13).
This vision of Godís glory, however, does not end with the Person of
God the Father. God the Holy Ghost is represented by the "seven lamps of
fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Rev.
4:5). This does not mean, it must be very clear, that there are "seven
Holy Ghosts," any more than the tongues of fire on Pentecost mean that
there is more than one Holy Ghost. Rather, in the tradition of Biblical
imagery, the number "seven" indicates the complete and perfect operation
of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God. We
still speak of the Seven Gifts (or sacred operations) of the Holy Ghost
in our Confirmation service, based on Isaiah 11:2, and these are Wisdom,
Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, and the Fear of the
But where is the depiction of God the Son, the Second Person of the
Blessed Trinity, in this vision of the whole glory of God? The Son himself
is the glory of the Father and the express image of his Person (Heb. 1:3).
Our Lord said, "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me"
(John 14:11) and "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Thus, while our
Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God made man, is depicted elsewhere
in St. Johnís vision in a variety of ways, here he is made manifest by
the results of his work.
St. John could not see this vision of the glory of the Father, and of
the glory of the Holy Ghost, if it were not for the incarnation, death,
resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. The glory of God is made manifest
to John because Jesus Christ has made him a member of his own Body. Likewise,
the four and twenty elders who fall before the throne and cast their crowns
before it in adoration are the elders of the Old and New Testament Churches,
redeemed by Jesus Christ to render worship to the Father in his Name. It
is Christís work of glorifying the Father that the elders continue, by
virtue of their having received the crown of salvation by his Blood.
The Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are not "three gods," but One
God. They are not, and cannot be, opposed to one another or divided. No
one who does not worship the Three-in-One and the One-in-Three can be said
to know the only God there is or to call him Lord. But there are not "three
lords," but only One Lord, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
Ghost. These Three Persons of the Godhead are of equal eternity, might,
majesty, and dominion, and yet within the order of their perfect love,
God the Father is first. He is served and obeyed by God the Son and by
God the Holy Ghost, for the sake of that love and not out of weakness,
compulsion, or necessity.
The Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are, moreover, real persons.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not "just three names for God"
or metaphors to describe how we have experienced God or our own personality.
And while we cannot divide the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, we can learn
from each of them in particular, as well as in their perfect unity. We
must remember, however, that we are created in the image and likeness of
God, rather than the other way around.
For example, if we say on this Fatherís Day, which happens to fall on
Trinity Sunday, that St. Johnís vision of God the Father seated on his
throne is the very image of the Divine Person who is the source of all
true fatherhood, we must not think for a moment that we call God "Father"
because of our experience of fathers on earth. Rather, we must understand
that we can only know what a "father" is, or know what the calling of earthly
fathers might be, because God the Father is eternally the Father of God
the Son, before all worlds began. Human fatherhood was created, first of
all, to glorify the Eternal Father in heaven, and secondly to give certain
chosen men the grace and the privilege of becoming images of the Fatherís
gloryóto be fathers on earth under the rule of God the Father in heaven.
That throne upon which the Father sits in St. Johnís vision is an admonition
to earthly fathers to rule their households, not as tyrants, but by goodness.
The Father in heavenís authority is precisely his perfect goodness, his
perfect purity, his perfect justice, and his perfect mercy. And while earthly
fathers will always be imperfect, especially in comparison to God, the
duties and the authorities of their office as "father" depend on their
efforts, with the help of Godís grace, to work constantly to make their
goodness, purity, justice, and mercy as perfect as possible.
That throne of God presented in the Scriptures as the epitome of all
true fatherhood may worry some people, since it certainly does mean that
fathers are to rule and to be obeyed. Some of those worries are legitimate,
but most of them come from our modern hatred of order and authority. And
yet, our legitimate worries pass away when we realize that the man who
is going to claim God the Father as the source of the authority for his
own fatherhood in his own household must himself bend the knee and submit
to the heavenly throne. He must accept with the gift of authority that
he will be judged by the Father in heaven for his earthly ministry as a
Our worries about unfettered tyranny in the home should also pass away
when we remember that wives are not children, and that the model of the
godly husband is the heavenly Bridegroom himself, Jesus Christ the Lord.
The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity become man exercises and derives
his authority as the husband of his Bride the Church from his willingness
to die on a cross for her.
But today, fatherhood as a divinely given vocation is under attack,
whether by false ideologies like feminism; by false social movements and
governmental policies that do not recognize that order and "equality" need
not be in conflict; by wives and children who deny their husbands and fathers,
no matter how godly, the respect and obedience that God has commanded;
and especially by lazy, careless, and unconverted men who fail to take
up the full God-given duties of fatherhood.
We all hate to see a drunken priest, a negligent doctor, or a crooked
cop because these men have failed in their vocations. Yet, so often, we
wink at a father who makes little or no effort to live up to the standards
of the Father in heaven. Heís busy, we say. Or, Heís tired. Or, Heís got
his own "ways." Or, He needs his "space." But those of us who had good
Christian fathers know that they worked just as hard as anybody else (if
not harder); that they got just as tired; that they suppressed their "own
ways" for Godís way more often than not; and that they never let us see
them sitting around feeling sorry for themselves and contemplating how
much easier life would be without us or our mothers.
Of course itís hard to be a good father. Every Christian calling is
hard because every Christian calling demands that we show the world some
bit of the goodness and glory of God. But the calling of fatherhood (complemented
by the calling of motherhood) is uniquely basic to the raising of sane
human beings, to the survival of society and civilization, and to the welfare
and success of the Church. Our mothers may teach us to value ourselves,
but without the lessons in discipline and justice that our fathers teach
us, we may never learn the value of others, not even of God.
The basics of Christian fatherhood can be put quite simply. A father
on earth is to be a faithful son of the Father in heaven. He is to live
out all of the Commandments of God, and to teach his children by his own
faithful example, as well as by his words. He is to be good, generous,
honest, and just. He is to correct out of love, and not out of anger or
self-regard. He is to take responsibility for the welfare of every member
of his household, and to place that welfare ahead of his own. Most of all
(because this will make all of his other duties possible), he is to work
to make himself and the members of his family holy before the Lord God.
Before there were priests, there were fathers. The modern notion that
religion is "womenís work" is a blasphemy against the God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob, the fathers by whom God established his Chosen People, and from
whom Jesus Christ was made flesh. It is fathers who are to lead their families
in prayer. It is fathers who are to make certain that their children receive
an education in the Christian Faith. It is fathers who are to bring their
families to worship in Godís House and with the members of Godís congregation
on the Sundays and Holy Days appointed by Godís Church (what were called
"sabbath days" in the Old Testament and in the Fourth Commandment).
None of these things is a choice, because each one of them is an absolute
obligation before God. The young men in our parish ought to recognize that
they should not even approach a woman as a possible wife and mother until
they are ready to take on these responsibilities. They should also recognize
that the God who makes such great demands offers greater graces to meet
them than can be imagined. They should also understand that the greatest
and most important work performed by any man in this parish, the work with
the most eternal significance, is the effort to be the kind of husband
or father that God has called him to be.
This is Trinity Sunday because of Who God is and because of what he
has done. It is also Fatherís Day because there is a noble tradition of
fathers, back through the centuries, who have honored God and brought us
thus far. We honor them today, then, because of the kind of men that God
made them and because of all that he helped them to accomplish. We worship
God best and honor our earthly fathers most when we take up our fathersí
work of glorifying God, and do so according to our heavenly Fatherís calling,
purposes, and wonderful grace.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Andrewís Church and Dr. Tarsitano.