By Fr. Timothy Kroh on Trinity Sunday:
In the Name ✠ of the One Holy Living God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we celebrate the principal mystery of our faith: the mystery of God Himself. Our God is one God in three Persons, and this mystery separates us from all the other major religions of the world. This is the doctrine of the Trinity.
In a certain sense, we don’t deserve to know it, and yet God chose to reveal it to us, because of God’s love for us, in giving us an intellect, free will, and the spirit to know and love God. All of these things draw us closer to the Trinity.
The mystery was revealed gradually, you won’t find this doctrine in Holy Scripture, and the historical document traditionally associated with this day, the Creed of St. Athanasius, is the only creed that is not a creed, but I won’t get into that today. The point is, the revelation of the Trinity was gradual; it was a process of discernment and revelation, which is an essential concept in all of our lives; that’s really what your life is meant to be: a process of discerning God’s will and responding to it.
In the book of Genesis, when our forbearers Sarai and Abram, in their desert dwellings by the oaks of Mamre, encountered three strangers they made a feast for them and treated them like divine messengers, which indeed they were, but there’s something funny about the text. When Abram lifted up his eyes and looked, “Behold, three men were standing opposite him, and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door and said, ‘My Lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not let your servant pass by.’” Why not “my Lords?” This is maybe a hint of the Trinitarian nature of God.
And in the wonderful call of the prophet Isaiah, a call which all of us share, as you must get tired of me reminding you, a call to serve God and to be, in a way, a prophetic messenger in the world, we hear that the angels of God sing a song that hints at the Trinity, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole Earth is full of his glory,” not theirs.
Paul mentions all three persons of the Trinity in the Epistle, although of course he doesn’t reference them in a specifically Trinitarian way. It took the church several hundred years of life, of prayer, of arguing and fighting, to come to our current understanding. And yet I hope none of us would ever make the arrogant claim of having anything like a full understanding of God, much less of the doctrine of God’s Holy Trinity. It is essentially not a doctrine to be understood but a reality to be experienced.
For an example of this we can look to the most significant human in her relationship in the most Holy Trinity, a relationship unique to any other human being, the most Blessed Virgin Mary. Listen to what the archangel Gabriel says to her: “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God,” that is, God the Creator, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,” there is the second Person. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” there is the third Person, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the Holy One to be born of you will be called Son of God.”
Only the most holy Mother of God shared in this unique way among all of us humans in the life of the Trinity; because through her God took on a body and came to the fullness of the Trinity. So this revelation was a process, which God revealed in God’s time, in that moment, with that most blessed of humans. The revelation is a process, like everything in God’s vast and wonderful creation, just like the creation itself, in the forces of evolution which began in the mind of God, is in itself a continuing revelation; just like our lives. The collect of the day prays in these words: “You have given to your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship.”
We don’t pray to understand the Trinity, but to live into it: to worship the fullness of God, and in the power of that fullness, to be steadfast in faith and worship. And as much as we remain steadfast in our relationship with God, in our faith and worship, which includes service, don’t forget worship and service are virtually one and the same thing: they’re both actions which testify to the reality of God and respond to that reality. So when we hear worship, we should hear service as well, because without one the other is incomplete. So we have to remain steadfast in these things, and we really ought to follow the example of our Lady.
She was called by the Fathers and Mothers of the church “Complimentum Trinitatis,” that is, the compliment of the Trinity. St. Francis called her the beloved daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Those are all definitions, not of full knowledge, but a full relationship, and that’s how God calls us to relate to God’s self in the Trinity.
When we meet God in Heaven, we will understand in a fuller way this reality, but we won’t ever completely understand it. We can, however, choose to be in communion with God. We can choose through our actions, our prayers, our worship here, our service outside of these doors, to be in relationship with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We can choose this way of life by every day giving some of our time to God in prayer: even a five minute practice of prayer a day is a wonderful life-giving place to start. A fifteen minute prayer practice is fantastic, and you can always pray the Daily Office, this wonderful gift in our life. If you want to learn more about that, show up tomorrow morning at eight-thirty.
There are so many ways we can commune with the Trinity: by serving dinner at South Station as we do every month; by loving the people God puts in our lives, which as we know isn’t easy; by engaging in Holy Scripture; by studying theology, yes, but by acknowledging God’s presence in our lives. In this way, we will come closer to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So if you want to understand the mystery of God’s existence, it will help you to study the doctrine. It will help you even more if you pray every day. It will help even more if you engage in an act of loving service, not to serve yourself, but to someone in need, and we know this city is so full of people in all kinds of need: spiritual, emotional, physical, temporal.
There are many ways we can live into our relationship with God. Perhaps the most important way is the way which we will do in a few holy moments: to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I’ll leave you with one necessary theological point about the Trinity. One of the mistakes we so often make is thinking about the Trinity from a kind of a top-down approach, where God the Father is on top and then, at some point in time, God created the Son, and then a little bit later God created and gave us the Holy Spirit. That is incorrect: Father, Son, and Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer have all created and been in existence jointly from the beginning. They are the un-created Creator, to think of one God with three Persons, all of whom aren’t bound together by time and space as we are is not easy, but it reminds us that the whole of God is present in the blessed Sacrament, the fullness of the Trinity. And remember that the Body of Christ is also, in a way, the body of our Blessed Lady. It means that the fullness of God is present in you, and in friend and stranger. It means that we are in full relationship with God if we simply follow the example of our Lady by saying, “Here I am, let it be with me according to your word.” Amen.