In its earliest centuries, as the Church sought to understand God more fully, it came to understand that God is three persons in one. But let's remember that by 'the Church' we mean much more than an organisation or a hierarchy. We mean a living body of people. We mean people who prayed, people of good deeds, people who sought to bring the whole of their lives into the living stream of the sacraments, so that God could bless them and reveal himself in their lives. This was the Church that came to understand God as Trinity.
It was, as much as anything else, the shared experience of the people of God that led to this development of Christian doctrine. Of course, theologians had to think about it and frame it in words, the teaching Church had to proclaim it - but it sprang from the deepest intuitions of Christian people. Yet this was more than an ordinary human understanding. It grew out of their spiritual life, but in this they were graced by God. Ultimately, the Trinity is a revelation from God, who has shown himself to be Father, Son and Holy Spirit through the lives of Christian people. They pondered their experience of God, they remembered the teachings of Christ, and saw clearly that these things led them understand that God is Three in One, the Holy Trinity.
We need, more than ever, to cling to this insight, because we live in an age of 'big questions'. Advances in astronomy and other sciences have made us aware that we live in a vast horizon of space. How, we wonder, did everything come to be? It is right that we should ask these questions, and seek to understand our universe.
But no matter how far back we look, we will never find all our questions answered. Only in the Trinity will we find that our questions cease, and the end of our exploring. Here we have ultimate reality. Here God gives us a glimpse of his inner being, three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united in love.
The whole of creation came from this divine love. In that wonderful phrase from Romans 8.16, ‘The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God.’
The source of all life is itself a living relationship of love. This love, this dynamic Trinity, reaches out to us and seeks to draw us in to share its life. Here, the big questions find the ultimate answer. It is not, you might say, a scientific answer. But it is better than a scientific answer, because the Trinity tells us that we are made in the image of a God who is love and who shares love in the depths of the divine being. The Trinity tells us that we came from love and that we are called to love, and that, through the divine mercy, ultimately we go to eternal love. As our first reading from Deuteronomy 4 reminds us, it is a most audacious claim, to say that God has called us and makes us into a people, his people now found in every nation on earth. We dare to say this not from any achievement on our part but from our knowledge of God’s love. To say that we are children of God caught up in the life of the Trinity brings not boastfulness but humility at the greatness of the divine gift which is given to us.
Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.
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