The Holy Trinity, Clipartmax.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son….. John 3:16.
Today we ponder the deepest, most secret, mysterious Christian truth of all, the Holy Trinity: Three Persons in One God. Whole libraries of books, papers, treatises, tomes, theses, sermons, manuscripts, scrolls, incunabula, you-name-it, have been written to attempt to get to the heart of this most mysterious of all our Christian Sacred Mysteries. The single quotation above from today’s gospel sums it up: God, Love, Son. Beyond that, what is there to say? Well, we have an interesting distinction here in theological thinking which contrasts the Eastern Christians to us in the West, Orthodox Christians and Catholic Christians. Orthodox contemplation of the Trinity is quite unlike ours. For them, the truth lies beyond words, concepts and human powers of analysis (Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p.118). In the West, the impossibility of explaining the Trinity led to all sorts of difficulties, even to the “death of God” thinking in the 19th century, the result of embarrassment and confusion amid the “clarity” of the Enlightenment and the “Age of Reason”. In its terms, the Trinity simply makes no sense at all, so….. Armstrong examines the “theory” of the Trinity; for the Orthodox, the word theory means contemplation. In the West it means a rational hypothesis which must be logically demonstrated. In those terms, God simply cannot be neatly wrapped up in a human system of thought, hence Western thinking many times has dismissed the whole concept of the Trinity. So what can one say?
Well, we must leave all our great analytical tools at the church door. This greatest mystery can never be unravelled in neat, mathematical logic, so accept that. What do we have left then? We have that opening sentence above, “God so loved the world…..” Have you ever met a couple deeply in love, yet each so utterly different from each other? A mystery! Each is tolerant and accepting of the other. Each recognizes the uniqueness of the other, yet completely knows the other. Sometimes they even know what the other is about to say before it is said! And we on the outside are always totally welcomed into their world, made to feel at home, made to feel part of their world. And as with any couple so deeply committed to each other, if they have children, they are the pride and joy of their lives, the apple of their eyes. That is the contemplation of the Trinity of Love, our Christian God. John says simply “God is love” (1 John 4:8) which should be the template, the touchstone of our understanding of the divine. In our experience, love requires at least one other. Two modern songs sum it up: “A bell is no bell till you ring it,/ A song is no song till you sing it,/ And love in your heart/ Wasn’t put there to stay/ – Love isn’t love ‘Till you give it away.” (Sound of Music, Oscar Hammerstein, stage version). And “To love another person is to see the face of God” (Les Misérables, Victor Hugo). In other words, at least two people are needed for love to be present, and true love is hallmarked by an openness to the world and all therein. We believe in a single, unitary God, yet a God of love….. So here is the thought I offer you today:
Love is such a mysterious reality. When it is present, the world becomes something wonderful, even perhaps in the face of terrible trials and challenges. With love, anything and everything seem possible. It is not confined, it has to be given away. When returned, it is fulfilled, and the world seems perfect. We are stronger, happier, more willing and even better at facing whatever challenges come our way. And God is the heart and soul of it. God so loved the world…. And in God we have three “persons” as the heart of love. The Father uniting with Love, and emanating from that, the beloved Son “in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). To make that somewhat more intelligible, I recently made a case for us English-speakers with our strongly-based gender-sensitive language, to think of the Holy Spirit as female (see 6th Sunday of Easter, 17 May 2020), something which, I believe, Jesus himself would have understood and accepted completely, as God’s Spirit in his Aramaic language was female….. So, at the centre of the universe, the opposite of a black hole exists, not sucking everything into itself, but our numinous God of Love, unleashing the power of love upon us all, wanting nothing more than for it to be returned purely and rightly in what we say, do and think both with God and with all around us, incredibly inviting all of us to unite together both now and for all eternity. God so loves the world that we are invited into the Godhead of love eternal.
Pope Francis Opens Pre-Synod of Young People, March 2018, Young Christian Workers.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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