The desert father, Evagrius of Pontus, once observed: “God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, he would not be God.”
This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, and Evagrius might have had this in mind when he made the above statement.
It is certainly true that the doctrine of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has been the source of much confusion, misuse, and controversy through the ages.
Critics often say that we as Christians are really worshipping three gods and have therefore fallen back into creating a pantheon of gods like the Romans, the Hindus, and other multi-theistic religions. I do believe this is not true, because if God is three gods, then that would mean the Universe is run by a Committee, and committees rarely work fast, because often a lot of talking is required before a decision can be made.
However, I prefer to think of the Trinity as a Community.
I suppose being here in the church today means that we are all Christians and as such we are members of the Christian community, either through baptism, or through the confession of our faith, or both. I believe that one of the underpinning characteristics of Christianity is community, and the moment we enter into the Christian Community we cease to be on our own.
And what is the one thing that brings us all together into a cohesive Christian community?
I believe it is love.
In the opening sentence of the Rule of St Benedict, he calls us into community by inviting us to listen “with the ear of our heart” for the presence of God right now amongst us. And to listen “with the ear of the heart” allows love to grow within us. Love is not so much a sentiment of the heart as it is an act. Paul says that we have faith, and we have hope, and we have love, and he says that the greatest of these is love. I believe love is faith and hope in action.
The first Christians preached that unity and peace are possible, if, in imitation of Christ, we will love one another, share our goods, pray together, forgive each other’s failings, and help one another.
Christian life is a continuing response to the love of God.
For me, the Trinity is the ultimate Community and an example of perfect love. It is the sublime relationship; and this relationship is especially manifested in how we as Christians are called to serve and love one another. This kind of love is difficult at the best of times; however, since we are after all created in God’s image, I believe that we are capable of this kind of love.
However, none of this is a guarantee that, just as much as joy is present in all of this, there won’t be times when we are profoundly lonely or misunderstood or any other of the unpleasant conditions of human existence. Even Jesus felt abandoned in the Garden of Gethsemane and cried out in anguish on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!” Why would God do that to his own son? This is something that we would not do to our own children, so it is odd that the source of all love would turn away from his own son, yet this is exactly what has happened in this moment. It was necessary for the fullness of God’s love for humanity to be realized and it tells us how much God values us.
And this fills me with hope and helps me to understand that just as Jesus had to endure this sense of desolation because of human action, we will also endure the downs of life, because we live in a world filled with people who are not perfect in love, and so will also need to call out to God with our needs.
And so, we are not perfect, yet God loves us perfectly, loves us with all our imperfections – why can’t we?
I think one of the main reasons why we cannot, is a lack of and poor understanding of humility. Not only as Benedictines, but also as Christians, we are called to humility. And the difficult thing about real humility is that it requires intimate self-knowledge and confidence in that self-knowledge. Roger never misses an opportunity to point out Jesus’ confidence in knowing who he is, and this allows Jesus to respond to everyone in and with love.
Paul also says that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Isn’t it wonderful, to know that we are loved in this way, and, by practicing love; we can strive to love in the same way?
We are, after all, part of a family and family determines so much of who we are; whether we’re talking about shared genes or shared experience, family by birth or the people we now call family.
But most of all, we are all part of God’s family: children of God, says Paul. Loving, supportive, accepting, encouraging, helping. That sounds easier than it is, because real life is made up of real people and we usually act like real people.
Nevertheless, we gather together, we greet each other with good words and hugs – remember hugs? – we hear one another’s joys and worries and pain, we pray for each other with thanksgiving and intercession, we enjoy and encourage each other, we cry together and, importantly, we laugh together.
Together. That’s the operative word. If allowed only one word to describe how the Trinity impacts the world today, I would choose “together.” It is about relationship, it expresses equality and friendship, and it is hopeful. Together we can be so much more and do so much more than we can alone.