In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit....
That may just possibly be the only thing I can safely say about the Trinity today – or any other day, come to that for I'm very conscious that when it comes to God, language fails us again and again and that pretty much anything I may try to say by way of explanation could lead us into heresy.
Shall I, then, give you the morning off as I share Wittgenstein's words
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”?
I have to admit it's tempting...for as we gaze on the glory of God, what more CAN we say beyond
“Holy, holy, holy.....”
But for some reason I feel compelled to try to say something.
Over the years I've learned, at least, how NOT to speak the Trinity.
So – I'm sorry but I'm not about to give you each a jaffa cake – chocolate, orange and sponge yet one biscuit - nor am I going to ask you to identify yourself as sister/daughter/friend.
Those may look like clever illustrations but they don't actually help – because the God whom we worship is not simply a series of job descriptions, which can be attached to one person or another.
What is true of the Father is always and non-negotiably true of the Son and the Spirit.
God does not do the work of creation alone, nor Jesus the work of redemption.
At Creation, when the Spirit moved upon the face of the waters, Father and Son were present too
When Christ emptied himself to become human – that emptying was the experience of the Father and the Spirit...
And when the Spirit descended on the disciples – this was to restore to them that intimate relationship with God that they had first entered in their wanderings with Jesus.
“All that belongs to the Father is mine......”
No divisions, no demarcations
God of God, light of light...for when you light another flame from the first, the first is not diminished...nor is the second less bright, less real, less powerful
Three persons – one substance
Now do you get it??
No...I don't expect you do....and I'm pretty certain I don't either – but I'm not going to worry.
[Some light relief...
There’s a story about an Asian gentleman to whom a well-meaning missionary was speaking about God the Father who created us, about God the Son who died and was raised up for us, and about the Holy Spirit of Love who appeared as a dove over the head of Jesus when He was baptized.
After the Asian gentleman had listened politely to the explanation, he said: “Honorable Father -- ah, very good. Honorable Son -- also very good. But Honorable Bird -- I do not understand at all.” And even more: “Honorable Holy Trinity -- that I do not understand at all.”]
But we don't NEED to understand.
The Trinity is a TRUE mystery – not something to solve but something to enter into......something to be transformed by.
An online friend suggested
“The Trinity is not merely a dusty incomprehensible doctrine but the Christian's exciting experience of God. “
and it is in that experience that we can come closest to the truth.
God does not require us to embrace a doctrine – but God DOES reach out to us in love.
Indeed, the mystery of the Trinity is very much LIKE being in love – as all-absorbing but as hard to get a grip on, though lovers know quite well what this amazing state FEELS like!
There's a wonderful book written in the middle ages that offers an antidote to the anxious quest for understanding. “The Cloud of Unknowing” suggests that the only way to truly "know" God is to abandon all attempts to know God, set doctrine aside and surrender to the mystery
"By love God may be gotten and holden; but by thought, never"
Think of our epistle.
There, Paul says nothing about understanding.
He talks instead of faith and grace – and, most compellingly, of love
“poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”
That's the route into the heart of the Trinity – for as they engage for all eternity in their mutual love, they seek too to draw us in...There is always space at the table and though God lacks nothing, yet God still yearns for you and me to be swept up in the dance of love that holds the universe in being.
You see, I believe that the central truth of the Trinity, -the point of it all, if you like, - is that our God is a God of relationship…that the Love that is at the heart of God exists to be poured out, because that is what real love does. Real love is equal in the giving and the receiving…real love makes room and draws others in. It is not about getting but about giving...not about having needs met but about mutual surrender
That's the love at the heart of the Trinity – and thus, the love at the heart of all creation.
And – did you notice – it's THAT love that is poured into our hearts...transforming our life and enabling our worship.
It is that love that brings us to our knees – as we realise that the Trinity is not a concept to be explained intellectually but God to be worshipped.
So -let's pray now, using words of Catherine of Siena …
Eternal Trinity, you are a deep sea, into which the more we enter the more we find, and the more we find the more we seek. The soul ever hungers in your abyss, longing to see you with the light of your light and, as the deer yearns for the springs of water, so our souls yearn to see you in truth. Amen