The Holy Trinity: Our church and parish are dedicated to it and during this month we will celebrate the annual festival the Church gives in its honour. But have you ever wondered what it actually is?
It is probably one of the most troublesome concepts in Christian thinking. I can assure you, in the theological colleges throughout the world, it is the topic students most fear studying! It is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, we all know that. The problem is trying to work out HOW it is.
Other religions confront Christianity and demand an explanation. How can you say you have one God, when you talk about having three? So we reply, it is not three gods, it the three natures or persons of the one God. So the questions come flooding back: Where was God the Father when God was being the Son? Where are the Father and the Son if you say God is the Spirit? If your creed says the Spirit 'proceeds' from the Father and the Son, how can you say the Spirit is equal to the Father and Son? Which came first? And which is most important?
Every time you approach the Trinity, you come away with more questions than answers!
I have a thing I say when people are talking about God and making major statements that define exactly what God is – If you think you fully and completely understand God, go back and see if you can find where you went wrong!
God must be more than our minds can fully encompass. Try to imagine the distance from where you are now to the furthest point in the world from you. (If you are in Williamstown, then it is a point in the North Atlantic about halfway between Spain and New York). Can you picture exactly how far that is? No. You turn it into an abstract figure – 20,037 and a half kilometres. Or you picture a map of the world and say, “It's from the green bit there to the blue bit there!”
If you cannot picture the size of the world without reducing it to understandable, finite concepts, how could you find words that fully and completely explain the God that created it?
So why do we reduce God to a set of words that could never fully encapsulate all that God must be? Holy Trinity? We do it because of what the words themselves teach us about God.
God the Father
In ancient times it was believed all life emanated from fathers. Before they knew about DNA, they believed fathers put babies inside mothers where they grew to emerge as new people. God the Father, then, meant God the source of all living, all life. I am completely comfortable with the concept of God the Mother, God the parent, God the progenitor. God the Creator who brought into being that most wondrous thing – life.
God the Son
Again, the ancients saw a man's son as the being of the father emerging in a new human. Jesus was the being of his heavenly father sharing our human life with us. We use the word 'incarnate' which literally means 'having taken on flesh'. For me, this is the truly amazing bit. God who created this miracle of human life also knows what it is like to live it. All the happiness, sadness, triumphs, defeats and struggles of it and even the pain of death that ends it.
God the Holy Spirit
Even though God knows us that well, that intimately, with all our flaws and failings, God still wants to hang around with us. In the Spirit we know God will always be there with us. And even better, that God wants us to find our way to God's perfect existence and wants us to share it forever.
Knowing God as Holy Trinity is knowing God to be everything we need to fulfill our lives and progress to that perfect life beyond it. God is everything in perfect harmony. That is what we mean when we say the name 'Holy Trinity'.
Ven Bill Beagley
reflections and occasional thoughts (appearing in the Parish newsletter)