Posted May 30, 2021
Feast of the Most Holy Trinity 2021
‘We believe in one God … And in one Lord, Jesus Christ … the only begotten of the Father … of one being with the Father.’ And ‘we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son: with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.’
This is the Creed that we sing or recite every Sunday. It took two Ecumenical Councils to arrive at that formulation, way back in the fourth century. And it is this formulation that underlies our use of the word ‘Trinity’.
But like every declaration of Church dogmas, it contains only just as much as was necessary to resolve the points that were in dispute at the time, just enough to define the minimum that must be confessed if you are to be sure that you are on the right side of the debate. It does not tell us everything about the Trinity. As the formula stands, it may not be complete; and consequently, it may not seem to be relevant to our own deepest concerns. Most especially, it does not tell us how the divine persons relate to each other. Do they even relate to each other? Or are they just static objects of worship, an august pantheon enthroned in majesty alongside each other?
To get a fuller picture of the Trinity, we need to go back beyond the fourth century. We need to go back to the first century, to St John’s Gospel, which in fact formed the first clear starting-point of the doctrine of the Trinity. And when we do this, we find not a doctrine, simply, but a whole new world. We find ourselves drawn into a mysterious, intimate conversation taking place in God’s inner being. The Son, we are told, is eternally in the ‘bosom’ of the Father. St John uses the same word ‘bosom’ when he says that the beloved disciple reclined on the ‘bosom’ of Jesus at the last supper. The phrase is about warmth and intimacy. ‘The Father loves me’, we hear Jesus say; and ‘I love the Father.’ ‘Father, all that I have is yours: and all that you have is mine.’ ‘Father, glorify me with the glory that I had with you before the foundation of the world!’ ‘My food is to do the will of my heavenly Father!’ ‘The Father has given everything into my hands.’ ‘The Father and I are one.’
From St John’s Gospel we get a glimpse of an aspect of the Trinity that we don’t find in the Creed. We begin to understand that there is in God’s inner being a mutuality, complete self-donation: utter self-relinquishment. The Trinity is essentially an eternal interchange of love between persons.
Now all this must have implications for our own lives. We are social beings. We live in families of one kind or another. We are called to love and to be loved. This experience of ours is a reflection of God’s inner being. An atheist would say: You are projecting onto God your own experience of love and intimacy. We say: No, it’s the other way round. The Book of Genesis got it right when it had God say: ‘Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness. So God created man in his own image: in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ Marriage, the basis of the human family, is not just the result of a biological instinct or an emotional need. It is one of the ways – a uniquely privileged way – in which God’s own being is mirrored in creation and in our human nature. It is an echo of the exchange that constitutes the Blessed Trinity: ‘Father, all that is mine is yours and all that is yours is mine.’ The family is analogous to the intimate communion which is God’s inner being. It therefore presupposes and demands complete communion based on self-giving.
This is a great inspiration especially for those of you whose vocation is to live out the sacrament of marriage and create around you a loving family, for it means that even the simplest act of selfless love in the family (and especially when it overflows outside the family to embrace others) is an act of religion in the strictest sense, an imitation of God, an anticipation of your destiny.
You must keep this marvel alive in your consciousness: and bring to your everyday family life a profound spirituality. It is your vocation to foster in your family such mutual love and generosity, such wisdom and seriousness, such joy and tranquillity, that something of God is always felt among you, always consciously fostered, always there to shine through to the world. Such families do exist, and a visit to one of them will tell you more about the mystery of the Trinity than any number of creeds and Ecumenical Councils.
And lest we think that today’s feast is only for religious people, let’s remind ourselves that the communion of love that is God is the model not just of ‘Christian marriage’ lived in faith and love, and not just of the Church, but of humankind as such. ‘Let us make Adam (that is, ‘let us make humankind’) in our own image and likeness’, God says in Genesis. Our human family will find its ultimate meaning to the extent that it mirrors forth the nature of God as permanent, reciprocal communion, as the origin and goal of all community and social cohesion.
May the Holy Trinity be for us a personal dynamism vividly and consciously alive in our hearts, in our families, in our communities – and in a world that is losing its sense of community in proportion as it is cutting itself loose from God.
Fr Tom Deidun