Things that Come in Threes


Holy Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev painted about 1410

There are a lot of things that come in threes. 

Off the top of my head there are several examples remembered from childhood: The Three Musketeers, The Three Blind Mice, The Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs, and The Three Little Kittens that had lost their mittens.

Three on a match

There is an old saying that states “Good things come in the threes”; however I have also heard it said that tragedies also like to strike in threes.This is related to the superstition of “Three on a Match” which is quoted to have originated from World War I when it became bad luck for three soldiers to light their cigarettes from the same match. This was because such a flame was lit long enough to be spotted and provided a target for the enemy.  However other sources state that the actual match manufacturer made up the idea to sell more matches (obtained from Wikipedia).

In psychology the principle of repetition is important for learning and memory. An effective plan of study is to go over the material three times.

In speech and writing, the “rule of three” is a device that stresses presentation in groups of three to make concepts that are more interesting, humorous, and impressionable. A sequence of three also can create anticipation and suspense. Advertising often uses three to communicate a message and to place emphasis: “Sale, sale, sale!”  A common motto in real estate is, “location, location, location.”

Precious triplets

Imagine the excitement in my family when my sister announced the birth of my triplet nieces. Everything in her household became an altar to the concept of three: Three cribs, three high chairs, three-seated strollers, three tricycles, and thousands of diapers for three precious little girls.

My Mom has three daughters and in the old days she got used to rattling off our names in succession, sometimes having to go through the list three times before she was able to get to the daughter she was trying to target.

Three denotes divine perfection and completeness

The number three in the Bible denotes divine perfection. Jesus resists temptation three times in the desert. St. Paul prays three times for the removal of the thorn in his flesh. St. Peter denies Christ three times before the cock crows and later thrice affirms his love and commitment to Jesus. The Ark of the Covenant contains three objects:  The golden pot of manna, Aaron’s staff, and the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.  Jesus’ Resurrection occurred on the third day.These are just a few of the many examples contained in Sacred Scripture.

The Latin phrase, omne trium perfectum, means that everything that comes in three is perfect and complete.  In practicality, one needs three legs to make a stool. In the Catholic Church, the three theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity

This Sunday is noted to be the Feast of the Holy Trinity, thus, the emphasis of three.The unity of the Godhead is made up of three Persons:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which are distinct from one another.  It is important to note that these are not three gods but one God made up of three Persons.  Also each of these three Persons are present together simultaneously.  So when one receives the Holy Spirit, one also receives the Father and the Son.  When one receives the Body of Christ, one also receives the Father and the Holy Spirit. The concept of the Holy Trinity is a Sacred Mystery of the Church.  It cannot be totally grasped through human understanding.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.(234).

St. Patrick used the Shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the faithful in Ireland.  The three-leaf clover shows three petals that make up one plant, in the same way that one God is made up of three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

One of my favorite practices of being Catholic is making the sign of the Cross, which literally can be done as often and whenever one desires. Most often it is done upon leaving and entering a Church and as a part of other prayers. Whenever we make the sign of the cross, we invoke the Holy Trinity by praying:  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

The mystical Holy Trinity icon

I chose to include the icon of the Holy Trinity in this blog.  It was painted in about 1410 by Andrei Rublev. This image shows the three angels that visited Moses but is also interpreted as a depiction of the Holy Trinity.  By meditating and looking at this icon, it has been noted to have the mystical quality of helping to draw a viewer into the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

This entry was posted in Major Solemnities, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *