This is Trinity Sunday.
There are some Christians who refuse to use the word Trinity “because it’s not in the Bible”. But the concept of the Trinity, namely that God is Father, Son, Holy Spirit can be found in many places throughout the New Testament.
If it were not considered a part of the Divine Revelation, I don’t think any human beings would have come up with the idea. Because it is from Divine Revelation, it is bound to remain a bit of a mystery. If anyone tells you that they can describe the Trinity perfectly to you… RUN… Get away from them, because they don’t know what they’re talking about.
There have been throughout Christianity many attempts at describing the Trinity, but all of them fall short of being able to give a complete description. Let me try to explain a couple of them, and why they have problems, following up with the one description I consider the best.
One of the first images people use is the Shamrock. Especially for those of us of Irish descent, thanks to St. Patrick. We have three leaves, with one stem. According to legend, Saint Patrick taught the pagan Irishmen the idea of the Trinity as one God, three Persons. The problem with this image is that a Shamrock has parts: the stem, and the three leaves. This can lead to a heresy which states that there are three distinct God’s who share a similar nature. God is not made up of parts. He is whole and complete in all three and in each individual person.
The next image I would like to discuss gives us a little better of a description, but still falls into a problem. It is the image of water. Water appears in three different forms: solid, liquid, and vapor. In its solid form, water has a unique property of floating on its liquid form. If it is thick enough, one can even walk across it. This could be seen as an image of the Father in that the Father supports us in our lives. – In its liquid form, water is essential to sustain our lives. And Jesus did refer to himself as the source of living water. – In its vapor form, if put under pressure, or extreme heat, water becomes a very efficient method of driving engines. And the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind our spiritual lives. Now, what is wrong with this image? It leads to a heresy called modalism. God does not appear in different modes. In reality, he is so simple that he is complex.
Another example is the idea that God the Father can be compared to the sun in the sky, who is unapproachable because we could not survive drawing that close. Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world, and light emanates from the sun to illuminate our world. But that is not the only property that comes from the sun. There is also heat which could be said to refer to the Holy Spirit. Part of the difficulty with this is similar to the Shamrock. It defines parts where there are no parts in God. He is complete and total in his simplicity and his complexity.
My last example is the best as far as I am concerned. I first read this in a book by Mr. Frank Sheed titled “Theology and Sanity.” He has another book titled “Theology for Beginners,” but I have not read that. I would recommend him as an author to anyone interested. So, what is this description of the Trinity that he wrote about? It is the idea of family, and a love relationship. One of the shortest sentences in the Bible is only three words: God is love.
So, using that as a starting place Mister Sheed began with God the Father loves. But love has to have an object, something or someone who is loved. It does not make sense to simply say “I love”. The logical question is: what or who do you love? The answer to that question in regards to God is that the Father loves the Son. And because God is God, he loves perfectly. So if the Father loves the Son perfectly, the Son must be perfect, because he is the object of the Father’s love. And because the Son is perfect, he must be God. (As a sidebar, God made us to be perfect to share in this same love. But sin intervened, so God had to intervene by sending his Son.)
Because the Father and the Son love one another so perfectly, that love is a perfection in and of itself. In fact, it is so perfect that it becomes the third Person of the Trinity in the Holy Spirit. Because it is all about the relationship of love among the members of the Trinity, this relationship is among the best of the descriptions for the Trinity that I have heard. However, it cannot fully describe the simplicity or complexity of the reality of the Trinity. But, as I said, it is the best description I have heard to date.
Almighty Father, you chose to create us capable of loving you. Help us to understand the mystery of the Trinity so that we can enter into the relationship that you have with your only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit. You have revealed this to us in the weakness of our humanity.
Help us to understand you even when our human relationships fail. There are those who cannot approach you, Father, because their own earthly father did not show them what they needed. – There are those who cannot approach you, Jesus, the bridegroom of our souls, because of their own damaged understanding of relationships of marriage. – There are those who have never known the meaning of love that you, the Holy Spirit bring to us, because they have never learned to trust true love.
Help us all to seek you, in whatever way we can. You have revealed yourself to us. Now, even though you know us, help us to reveal ourselves to you, that we may learn to know you even as you know us. Amen.