Trinity Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons - 16 April

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Abraham and Three Angels - Chagall

Abraham and Three Angels - Chagall

Psalm 8, which is used as the Responsorial psalm on Trinity Sunday reminds us in clear terms that human relationship with God is not one of equality, but nor is it that of a lowly servant:

'You have made him (US) little less than the angels,
and crowned him (US) with glory and honour.
You have given him (US) rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his (OUR) feet. (Ps8:6-7)

The inference, much loved in Eastern theology, is that being human we are 'like' God and particularly through the 'Incarnation' we are brought into God's own life through the activity of Jesus and our relationship to him.

As St Gregory Palmas insists in his sermon on the Incarnation: '…when the King of heaven came to dwell amongst us and chose to unite Himself with us, the kingdom of heaven drew near to us all'. Part of our calling as Christians is to reveal that Kingdom in our midst, not as something unattainable and in the future, but germinating, growing with us right now!

The Trinity is part of that consistent growth, for in our faith God is not abstract and unknowable, but dynamic, loving, mysterious yes, but connected with us both is the Gospel time of Jesus who, we believe is the unique revelation of God-made-human, but in so much more, in the ancient depths of our origins, both planets and life, where before all else God was and is, and where we see that dynamism at work, Creator desires and forms, the Word names and shapes, the Spirit gives life.

For me, as I hope for you, the Trinity is not some stultifying doctrine that we deal with in a pragmatic way, rather it is an echo of what all our own relationships are, as the psalmist says: "What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?'(Ps 8:5) Yes, what are we that this God cares for us, and not only us but also all of creation? How does this God care, can we see this love at work?

Yes, the answer is abundantly clear, relationships are the connecting thread and the Trinity reveals that, the Creator cannot do without that interplay of love with the Son, but neither can sustain this love except by the power and dynamism of love itself, which is the Spirit at work, they are one in love, revealed in the dynamic gift of three persons, much as families or friendships are, two always needs three to move outwards and connect with others, to become a community rather than couple. That is the dance of the Trinity!

So on this Sunday we wonder a bit at the Trinity, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it, for slowly, imperceptibly the Trinity is at work in our world and in each one of us, the glimpses and insights of that dynamic of love happens in 'all places and at all times' , but finally, don't worry about the mystery, start to enjoy God at work with you, beyond you, around you, in you, for one day we shall fully know!

Ancient Celtic Poem

Three folds of the cloth, yet only one napkin is there,
Three joints in the finger, but still only one finger fair,
Three leaves of the shamrock, yet no more than one shamrock to wear,
Frost, snowflakes and ice, all in water their origin share,
Three Persons in God: to one God alone we make our prayer.

Thomas Merton on the Trinity

Let us live in this love and this happiness, you and I and all of us, in the love of Christ and in contemplation, for this is where we find ourselves and one another as we truly are. It is only in this love that we at last become real. For it is here that we most truly share the life of One God in Three Persons.

God in His Trinity of subsistent relations infinitely transcends every shadow of selfishness. For the One God does not subsist apart and alone in His Nature. He subsists as Father and as Son and as Holy Spirit. These Three Persons are one, but apart from them God does not also subsist as One. He is not Three Persons, plus one nature therefore four! He is Three Persons but One God. He is at once infinite solitude (one nature) and perfect society (three persons). One infinite Love in three subsistent relations.

The One God Who exists only in Three Persons is a circle of relations in which His infinite reality, Love, is ever identical and ever renewed, always perfect and always total, always beginning and never ending, absolute, everlasting and full.

Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Tags: Sunday Reflection, Trinity, Fr Robin GIbbons

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