Thursday, May 31, 2012
Thoughts about the Trinity (previously posted on the Faith Formation Blog)
Trinity Sunday has always been one of my favorite Sundays of the liturgical year -- It is always celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost, and before the season of Sundays after Pentecost, usually referred to as "ordinary time".
The mysterious concept of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit -- three in one all at once -- is a concept that stretches our mind to a point beyond words. We sing about the concept: "Holy, Holy, Holy" is perhaps one of the most familiar hymns. In our statements of faith, The Nicene, the Apostles', and the Athanasian Creeds, we declare our belief as a community in the various persons of the Trinity. Still, few of us have a mental understanding of how to explain the Trinity, and it is only the most courageous of preachers who attempt to offer such an explanation in the context of a 12-17 minute long sermon.
An easy way out would be to simply tell a cute story:
A priest was in a public place where he witnessed a man who collapsed and was clearly in mortal danger. The priest (of course) ministered to the man, kneeling by his side: "My son, do you believe in God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?" The man opened one eye partially and said...
"What... I'm dying.... and you're asking me a riddle?"
I suppose light humor can help us get around the frustration of our own inability to articulate the MEANING underlying our songs, our prayerful phrases, or our statements of faith. However, in honor of this, one of my favorite Sundays, I want to offer an image I was given by C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, that has increased my understanding of the Trinity.
Consider the geometric figure of a cube. A cube is comprised of 6 squares joined in a three dimensional fashion, right? And squares are comprised of four lines of equal length... and lines are created by connecting two points (taken even further... the connecting lines are nothing other than a series of points)
So you are looking at the cube... and it is a matter of your focus or the intention (choice) of your mind as to whether you are looking most closely at a square, a line or a point, or the cube as a "whole" comprised of many parts. Also, as you look at various squares, look at what happens when you gaze at the bottom line running parallel to the space above the words "so you are looking at the cube..and " (do this for 5 seconds) Now look away from the figure (for 10 seconds) and look back, but focus upon the space above the TOP line, that is below (and parallel to) the phrase "lines are nothing other"--and slowly move your focus to the space on the right of the cube (5-10 seconds or until you see the figure "flip")
It is amazing how we can see the points, lines and squares in so many ways all at once, simply by allowing our senses to be open to a variety of perspectives and places of full attention.
So.... back to the idea of the Trinity. God's mystery of creation, compassion and abiding/eternal/infinite presence is one that we can experience "all at once in totality". Still, there are moments in our life when our spirit, heart or mind seem to be most fully aware of one aspect of the three in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In closing, we are reminded, though, that we can never, ever fully comprehend the mystery of God through the limited vehicle of OUR understanding. We are reminded, too, that it is not at the moment of understanding Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we are activated in our mission as Christians: It is the moment when our hearts are ignited in belief!
Then we begin to set our feet on paths unknown to us, but made sound and sure by God, revealed through Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit.