I will admit to feeling a bit of apprehension as Trinity Sunday approaches, and it may not be for the reasons some of you suspect. I am not dreading a homily that mistakes itself for a theological treatise; I can’t remember ever hearing a theological rant on the Trinitarian nature of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or a tirade against various herisies, those that seek to reduce the Trinitarian Godhead to three understandable modes of being, like the three leaves of a shamrock, or those that dismiss the truly divine nature of Jesus altogether.
No, I guess I am dreading another embarressed shuffle up in front of a bemused congregation, followed by that famous disclaimer “I am not a theologian”. And then a few half- hearted words about the topic of the trinity, with maybe a reference to Arianism, or the Logos.
As my daughter would say, I’m not trying to be harsh.
But, really, haven’t we all had enough of “I don’t pretend to understand the trinity and I can’t seem to find a way to preach it?”
Think about this: what was seminary preparation all about? What is this life you, our beloved priests, are leading, if not an expression, however imperfect, of the very life of God, who is by nature three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? As you strive to lead souls to heaven, so that we might one day all share in the divine life, aren’t you sharing with us glimmers at least of the holy Trinity?
Maybe it’s a matter of clearing away all the debris left after the study of what the trinity is not; a recognition that once we are able to speak about Father, Son and Holy Spirit without falling into heretical speech, what we have left is the witness of the saints on how to live a holy life. Because if we can speak about holiness, we can speak about the trinity.
God spoke and his words never come back empty. God’s own speech is the demonstration of what love is: it is fruitful, it is self offering, it is tender, it is not about the I but about the you. Every human life, lived to its fullest, is not about itself but about other human lives. How stunningly beautiful, and how taken for granted those words can be if they are not rooted in the three in one, the God who is trinitarian in nature.
That Jesus who came down from heaven and showed us how to live is not slightly less than God, the Jesus who died for our sins is not a really good person who did some cool things while he was alive, the Holy Spirit who breathes life into our acts of love is not a pale reflection of real divine love. No, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, together with the Father, are God, God in three persons, blessed trinity. So when we are animated to live for others it is no less than God himself who is living in us and moving us. It is no less than God himself who died on the cross to give us back our lives fully restored to himself after the fall of Adam.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels and have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
If it is not the Holy Spirit, who is God, living is us, then the acts we attempt are nothing, at least as regards holiness. Holiness means that by immense grace, we , God’s creatures, are offered a participation in the divine life. Our actions, feeble enough on their own, are elevated to the dignity of holiness by means of the Holy Spirit, who is no less than God. The divine giving and receiving of love embraces us and draws us into its own dynamic way of living.
Yes, it is difficult to put into words the mystery of the Godhead, three in one. But we do have the creed; we speak about God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, through him all things were made, for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit was made man.
And we have the saints, who in their extraordinary way of selfless giving, animated always by the divine life show us the path of holiness.
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Who but God, in his own action of love could make possible this love in us? Who but the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united mysteriously into one, yet remaining three persons, could make possible such flights of beauty that reflect true love among we who are anything but divine?