Thursday, May 23, 2013

Practical Understanding of the Trinity of God

6th Century Mosaic at San Vitale Church, Ravenna, Italy
of the Three Angels who visited Abraham (Genesis 18)
often used to image the Triune God
This Sunday will be the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Over my years as a Priest I have several topics which I have extensively studied; one of those topics is the Trinity. I have read quite a few books on this subject. Unlike the "popular thinking" that one cannot understand the Trinity: One God in Three Persons, I have found much to understand and appreciate. I don’t expect to understand everything about God because God transcends our understanding, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to understand to begin with.
Through revelation we are given this fact that God is One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. "God is one but not solitary." (Catechism #254) God fundamentally is the relationship of love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our God is The Relationship of Love without beginning and end: 1 John 4:8 says: "God is love." The Catechism comments on this passage from John:
"But St. John goes even further when he affirms that ‘God is love’: God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange." (#221; emphasis added)
When we think about it, to say that "God is love" already carries within this statement that God is not solitary, but rather would have at least one other to love. Indeed, we are told that God the Father has always loved God the Son and God the Son has always returned this love to the Father. But the revelation concerning God the Holy Spirit means that the love of Father and Son is not exclusionary. This love has always included "Another," the Holy Spirit who shares eternally in the love who is God.
Now, God has created all things and sustains all reality in it being. Since God is relationship, this means that all reality is in the form of relationships, whether of human beings with God or one another; or animals among themselves; or animate creatures within inanimate environments. We should expect this when we look at Nature and see an interdependence of all things, which now includes our understanding of ecological relationships:
"God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other." (Catechism #340; emphasis in the text)
There is a reflection of the Triune God’s diversity (Three distinct Persons) and unity (One God) reflected in the diversity of creation which is still one reality.

Now what does this mean for my life and the lives of others? We are taught that we humans are created "in the image of God," to be "like God." The Church has meditated upon what it means to be "in the image" and "like God." The image refers to our capacity to know and love. To be "like God" is to actually know and love others, including God. Just as God loves as Three Persons, so humans are to love one another and form personal relationships with one another. When we do this, we are being like God; we are fulfilling our capacity to know and love.
In addition, we who are baptized into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, are given this knowledge of the nature of God as Communion and we are to live in this Communion, and with the help of God, form Communion and Community with others.
All this, I see, has great implications for our identity and purpose in this world. It means that anything we do to build loving relationships with others is being "like" God: the Triune God and thus giving God glory. When a man and woman love one another in marriage, when families are formed and nurtured, when friendships are made and deepened, when people work together to achieve the common good, when Churches are formed to know, love and serve God and others, when neighborhoods are strengthened, when communities are built, when nations live in justice and respect, and creation’s relationships are respected and human persons are fulfilled in relationships, all such activities are done in the image and likeness of the God who is Relationship, Communion, and Love, i.e. the Most Holy Trinity.

Now this arises from understanding and appreciating the Trinity of God. Is that so hard to understand? I think not!
Listen HERE to "If Ye Love Me" by Thomas Tallis (c1505 –1585) based on John 14:15-17a where Jesus, the Son of God, asks God the Father to send Another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John is very Trinitarian.