Skip to comments.One and One and One Are One - A Homily for Trinity Sunday
Posted on 05/22/2016 6:46:00 AM PDT by Salvation
There is an old spiritual that says, My God is so high you cant get over Him. Hes so low you cant get under Him. Hes so wide you cant get around Him. You must come in, by and through the Lamb.
Its not a bad way of saying that God is other. He is beyond what human words can describe, beyond what human thoughts can conjure. And on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we do well to remember that we are pondering a mystery that cannot fit in our minds.
A mystery, though, is not something wholly unknown. In the Christian tradition, the word mystery refers (among other things) to something that is partially revealed, something much more of which remains hidden. Thus, as we ponder the Trinity, consider that although there are some things we can know by revelation, much more is beyond our understanding.
Lets ponder the Trinity by exploring it, seeing how it is exhibited in Scripture, and observing how we, who are made in Gods image, experience it.
I. The Teaching on the Trinity Explored Perhaps we do best to begin by quoting the Catechism, which says, The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons: [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God, whole and entire (Catechism, 253).
So there is one God, and each of the three persons of the Trinity possesses the one divine nature fully. The Father is God; He is not one-third of God. Likewise, the Son, Jesus, is God; He is not one-third of God. And the Holy Spirit is God, not merely one-third of God.
It is our human experience that if there is only one of something and someone possesses it fully, then there is nothing left for anyone else. Yet, mysteriously, each of the three persons of the Trinity fully possesses the one and only divine nature, while remaining a distinct person.
One of the great masterpieces of the Latin Liturgy is the preface for Trinity Sunday. It compactly and clearly sets forth the Christian teaching on the Trinity. The following translation of the Latin is my own:
It is truly fitting and just, right and helpful unto salvation that we should always and everywhere give thanks to you O Holy Lord, Father almighty and eternal God: who, with your only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance. For that which we believe from your revelation concerning your glory, we acknowledge of your Son and the Holy Spirit without difference or distinction. Thus, in the confession of the true and eternal Godhead there is adored a distinctness of persons, a oneness in essence, and an equality in majesty, whom the angels and archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim, do not cease to daily cry out with one voice saying, Holy, Holy, Holy
Wow! A careful and clear masterpiece, but one that baffles the mind. So deep is this mystery that we had to invent a paradoxical word to summarize it: triune (or Trinity). Triune literally means, three-one (tri + unus) and Trinity is a conflation of Tri-unity, meaning the three-oneness of God.
If all this baffles you, good! If you were to say that you fully understood all this, I would have to call you a likely heretic. For the teaching on the Trinity, while not contrary to reason per se, does transcend it and it is surely beyond human understanding.
And now a final image before we leave our exploration stage. The picture at the upper right is from an experiment I remember doing when I was in high school. We took three projectors, each of which projected a circle: one red, one green, and one blue (the three primary colors). At the intersection of the three circles the color white appeared (see above). Mysteriously, the three primary colors are present in the color white, but only one shows forth. The analogy is not perfect (no analogy is or it wouldnt be an analogy) for Father, Son, and Spirit do not blend to make God. But the analogy does manifest a mysterious three-oneness of the color white. Somehow in the one, three are present. (By the way, this experiment only works with light; dont try it with paint!)
II. The Teaching on the Trinity Exhibited – Scripture also presents images of the Trinity. Interestingly enough, most of the pictures I want to present are from the Old Testament.
Id like to point out as a disclaimer that Scripture scholars debate the meaning of the texts I am about to present; thats what they get paid the big bucks to do. I am reading these texts as a New Testament Christian and seeing in them a doctrine that later became clear. I am not getting into a time machine and trying to understand them as a Jew from the 8th century B.C. might have. Why should I? Thats not what I am. I am reading these texts as a Christian in the light of the New Testament, as I have a perfect right to do. You, of course, are free to decide whether you think these texts really are images or hints of the Trinity. Here they are:
God speaks of himself in the plural: Let us our Some claim that this is just an instance of the royal we being used. Perhaps, but I see an image of the Trinity. There is one (God said) but there is also a plural (us, our). Right at the very beginning in Genesis there is already a hint that God is not all by himself, but rather is in a communion of love.
In the passage above, the word used for God is אֱלֹהִ֔ים (Elohim). It is interesting to note that this word is in the plural form. From a grammatical standpoint, Elohim actually means Gods, but the Jewish people understood the sense of the word to be singular. This is a much debated point, however; you can read more about it from a Jewish perspective here: Elohim as Plural yet Singular.
(We have certain words like this in English, words that are plural in form but singular in meaning: news, mathematics, acoustics, etc.) My point here is not to try to understand it as a Jew from the 8th century B.C. or even as a present day Jew. Rather, I am observing with interest that one of the main words for God in the Old Testament is plural yet singular, singular yet plural. God is one yet three. I say this as a Christian observing this about one of the main titles of God. I see an image of the Trinity.
From a purely grammatical standpoint this is a very difficult passage because it switches back and forth between singular and plural references. The Lord (singular) appears to Abram, yet Abram sees three men (some have said that this is just God and two angels, but I think it is the Trinity). And then when Abram addresses them he says, My Lord (singular). The tortured grammar continues as Abram suggests that the Lord (singular) rest yourselves (plural) under the tree. The same thing happens in the next sentence, in which Abram wants to fetch bread so that you may refresh yourselves (plural) In the end, the Lord (singular) answers, but it is rendered as So they said. Plural, singular which is it? Both. God is one; God is three. For me as a Christian, this is a picture of the Trinity. Because the reality of God cannot be reduced to mere words, we have here a grammatically difficult passage. But I can see what is going on: God is one and God is three; He is singular and He is plural.
When God announces His name, He does so in a threefold way: Lord! The Lord, the Lord. There is implicit a threefold introduction or announcement of God. Is it a coincidence or is it significant? You decide.
God is Holy, Holy, and yet again, Holy. Some say that this is just a Jewish way of saying very Holy, but as Christian I see more. I see a reference to each of the three persons of the Trinity. Perfect praise here requires three holys. Why? Omni Trinum Perfectum (all things are perfect in threes). But why? As a Christian, I see the angels praising each of the three persons of the Trinity. God is three (Holy, holy, holy ) and yet God is one (holy is the Lord ). There are three declarations of the word Holy. Is it a coincidence or is it significant? You decide.
Thus Scripture exhibits the teaching of the Trinity, going back even to the beginning.
III. The Teaching of the Trinity Experienced We who are made in the image and likeness of God ought to experience something of the mystery of the Trinity within us. And sure enough, we do.
We must be careful to understand that what we humans manifest sexually, God manifests spiritually. For God is neither male nor female in His essence. Thus, we may say, The First Person loves the Second Person and the Second Person loves the First Person. And so real is that love, that it bears fruit in the Third Person. In this way the married couple images God, for the husband and wife love each other and their love bears fruit in their children .
So today, as we extol the great mystery of the Trinity, we look not merely outward and upward so as to understand, but also inward to discover that mystery at work in us, who are made in the image and likeness of God.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
Well worth a close read. An excellent reminder of what we may already have read and understood (as far as it is humanly understandable) of God as Trinity.
Once again Charles Pope shows us that Elohim will never leave us without a true Pope! IIRC the Apostles chose Mathias to replace Judas, but Jesus chose Paul!
1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. and shall give account of their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.
The spiritual 3-In-1 oil for our souls. :)
That is a rare bird of a creed.
It has long been a practice (tradition?) to read this creed on Trinity Sunday. We only do this once a year.
Our church is LCMS.
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