Once again, we immerse ourselves in this familiar but unfathomable belief of the God of three persons, and try to explain this mystery by using a variety of familiar symbols. We have used triangles, circles, shamrocks, and the chemistry of water as solid, liquid and gas in our effort to squeeze a great mystery into our limited minds. None of these efforts seem to adequately do the job, and often our attempts get bogged down in the explanation and lose the element of contemplation that mystery produces.
Ultimately, our quest to understand puts us on the beach with Augustine watching the child digging a hole and filling it with the sea, bucket by bucket. The child told him---the sea is too large, and the hole too small, and so is the mystery of the Trinity too large and your brain too small. But, don’t give up! In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us: “You cannot bear [understand] it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
The American author, Flannery O’Connor, suggested that our most cherished beliefs provide “only a gateway to contemplation and are instruments of freedom and not of restriction. They preserve mystery for the human mind.” Faced with beliefs that demand our faith response, O’Connor believed that the only valid response to spiritual mysteries is contemplation and not necessarily understanding. That is certainly true of the great mystery celebrated this Trinity Sunday.
Through the efforts of Church councils and theologians, we have come to know that God is revealed to us as Father, Son and Spirit while remaining one being. We do not have three Gods, a belief that many of our Jewish brothers and sisters gave their lives to uphold, but a God who by nature is unity. This is fundamental because our efforts to explain the Divine Trinity often give the impression that God is for us, a triple threat, or a three-faceted safety net, or a divine actor playing three distinct roles. God is single-minded, always playing the one role of lover, a role that is revealed to us in a variety of ways. God is love---the source of love, the restorer of love, and the author of all of loves’ possibilities.
Ultimately we come to know God as Trinity, not by any mental manipulation or intellectual activity, but as revealed to us by God himself. As theologian Walter Burghardt has said: “Trinity Sunday is not God’s feast; it is ours. Today, we celebrate God with us. However humbly you think of yourself, however much you may regret what you do not have, never forget the supreme gift that is yours. You are a living tabernacle: God is alive in you---Father/Mother; Son and Holy Spirit.” This unity of the three reflects a love that binds and frees; draws in and radiates out at one and the same time.
Let us put aside the wordy explanations and the clever attempts to understand, and quietly watch and wait for God’s self-revelation. We are no longer mere creatures! God is revealed to us as parent, and we as his beloved children, God as brother, and we as his beloved brother or sister, and God as Spirit, and we are alive within the very life-breadth of God himself. This is the Trinity of Persons into which we were plunged at baptism and surrounded by the mystery of Divine life. That life fills us and joins us together, sending us to be God’s presence and God’s activity in the world.
~ Deacon Wilson Shierk