Celebrating the Trinity
Trinity by Andrei Rublev (ca 1410-1420)
The first Sunday after Pentecost is celebrated as Trinity Sunday. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet one God. The Trinity is a reality over which Christians have puzzled for centuries. Jesus spoke of His Father. He stated that He and the Father were One. He promised to send their Holy Spirit. But what did it all mean?
We speak of the dogma of the Trinity as being a mystery. The use of the word mystery can be problematic. It can imply that if we just focus our attention and uncover the right clues, we can solve the mystery and get to its core. After all, that’s the way it works in detective novels and television shows! But that’s not the kind of mystery we’ve got in the Trinity. The reality of God is so much more than we can ever imagine, let alone comprehend, that the best we can do is look for threads that give us a small sense of the dimensions and reality of the whole.
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM and the late Fr. John O’Donohue have both gifted us with meditative reflections on the Trinity in recent years. They speak of the Trinity in terms of rhythms and flow and surpise. Richard Rohr speaks of a “family resemblance” between the Trinity and all of creation, from the depths of the atom to the furthest extent of the universe, there is a similarity of pattern. All are in movement, all are in relationship to each other, the power is in the “in between.” Life is in the movement, the flow.
Fr. Rohr notes that the Greek Fathers of the Church described the Trinity as a relationship of perichoresis – a mutual interpenetration and indwelling. He explains that perichoresis can be translated as dance. God is the dance and we come to know God only from within the dance of the Trinity. As long as we remain open and allow ourselves to be pulled into the flow of mutuality, to the perfect giving and perfect receiving that is the life of God, we will experience the communion, intimacy and relationship characteristic of God’s life. Anything that stops the flow of loving – anger, resentment, judgement – cannot be part of who God is. To the extent that we harbor those blocks to love, we block the flow of God’s life/love in ourselves.
John O’Donohue, in a workshop for the Religious Education Congress of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2005, also spoke of the Trinity in terms of rhythm and flow, touching on many of the same themes described above. A poet and storyteller, he looks at the mystery of the Trinity through poetic images – the flow of a river, a dream of the divine, dance, music, between-ness. He speaks of God as the “secret music of the heart and the universe… the primal music and dance of all that is.”
We most often experience the world in terms of dualities such as inside/outside, masculine/feminine, divine/human, light/dark and so forth. Yet O’Donohue points out that in reality we actually find ourselves at the threshold between those dualities most of the time. It’s a threshold that must be permeable if we and our relationships are to be healthy, so that the qualities of each side of the duality can pass between, refreshing, supporting and enlivening the other. As he points out, there’s the one side, the other side and the place in between. For O’Dononue, the place in between is where we find the Holy Spirit, holding “all the between-ness together.”
The insights of these two men are well worth hearing and pondering. There’s far more to what each has said than can be described in a short blog post. But the depth of the wisdom they bring resonates with the insights of the mystics from all the ages. As John O’Donohue notes, “Once you get a taste of God, nothing else tastes the same.” And again, “That’s what it’s about – coming fully alive to the dream of the Divine within you.”
May the dream of the Divine resonate within you and lead you ever more deeply into the life of the Trinity.