Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Holy Trinity

Listen up, heathen, it's Trinity Sunday and time to reflect on the inner life of God, revealed as three persons in one divine nature. Three persons fully God yet not three Gods but one God.

Tricky, isn't it, and I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an old monk, back in the mists of time. "Tell me, Father (he was a priest religious), how do we understand the Trinity?" I was hoping for wisdom from this elder, you see, and he replied, "Well, it's like a shamrock!"

The problem, of course, is that the Trinity isn't much like a shamrock or three pieces of one awesome pizza; each leaf or slice is fully the thing itself. How?

Perhaps Aquinas helps, following Aristotle through the lens of St. John. God, from all eternity thinks, He generates or begets an idea of Himself, a perfect concept of who He is, which is everything that He is, including existence and self-consciousness. 

This thought is expressly uttered as His Word, identical in being with the Father but distinct in relationship to Him. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God, says St. John. Here's Aquinas:

Whenever anyone understands because of his very act of understanding, something comes forth within him, which is the concept of the known thing proceeding from his awareness of it. It is this concept which an utterance signifies; we call it 'the word in the heart' signified by the spoken word. (1a.27.1)

So the Father and the Son, or Word, are one in being but persons by virtue of their relationship one to the other. And the Father looks at the Son and loves Him because He is everything that is lovable. So too does the Son love the Father. Both pour out their being, perfectly, to each other in love.

Such love, being all that the Father and the Son are, must itself be a person, the Holy Spirit. Again, identical in being with the other persons of the Trinity but distinct in terms of relationship; the Spirit proceeds. And He pours Himself back to the Father and the Son in love.

Step back from this for a moment and see that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are a community or communion of persons in love. As Augustine teaches, Lover, Beloved and Loving. God, per St. John and in no other religion, is love.

How very beautiful, LSP, you say with that faint curl of the lip as you sip the next fizzing glass of Clicquot. Not so fast, boulevardier, consider the reverse. As opposed to God is love, think of the reality behind the universe as simply its material, stars, planets, electrons, atoms, particles, gasses, forces and on. 

This, we're told, liberates us from oppressive Christianity. Really? Being in the hand of vast, implacable, natural force is freeing?

Go ahead and think that, but since when did gravity write your family a condolence letter when you fell off the pier fishing for Gar? Since when did an electron apologize for making you feel bad and then try to do something about it?

That way lies despair and the Trinity frees us from this. In the Triune God we  see love at the foundation of all that is, and therein lies fulfillment, meaning and purpose, the telos or end of our soul's desire.

May we grow into the glory,



Adrienne said...

Ah, yes - the clover explanation. Sad and totally not satisfying.

I gave up eons ago trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. That's what faith is for.

Instead - today at Mass not only was an unknown couple (who reminded me of 85 year old garden gnomes) sitting in MY PEW - IN MY PLACE, but they proceeded to get in an argument during Mass. I kid you not.

I think the male gnome didn't want to be at a Latin Mass. Somewhere in there he excoriated her for being stubborn. Not just stubborn, but stubborn, stubborn, stubborn!!!

By the grace of God, I didn't turn around and slap the crapola out of the nasty little male gnome with an entire bouquet of clover.

Bless me Father...

Infidel de Manahatta said...

Of course we won't go into the whole procession mess. Haven'the Anglican leadership voted to drop the filioque from the creed?

Other than that.....happy Trinity Sunday!

LSP said...

Now I'm thinking of an unholy duality of arguing gnomes, Adrienne, all about to be taken to task by you with an avenging weapon of clover!

For goodness, sake, gnomes, shut up and worship God.

LSP said...

Ah, the good old filioque, Infidel! Someone from the East once said that Augustine and the West "reduce the hypostases of the Trinity to mere relationships." I asked Kallistos (ahem, Timothy) Ware about that and he replied, "They obviously don't know what they're talking about."

Then there's the Anglican leadership. What haven't they dropped from the Creed?

Liturgical Dance forever.