By NEMS Daily Journal
Trinity Sunday, which is tomorrow in most churches of the Western liturgical tradition, arguably presents one of the Christian tradition’s most complex, most baffling and most feared beliefs.
Questions like, “What is the Trinity? Who is the Trinity? Why do we have to have a Trinity? Why care about the Trinity?” – all will be heard.
Those and similar ones are heard every day around the world because for many Christians it’s a case of often saying “we believe” without understanding what’s confessed.
The most famous of the ancient creeds of the faith, the Nicene, even has two versions because Orthodox Christians and Catholic (Western) Christians about a thousand years ago could not agree on the language about the Holy Spirit in the context of the Holy Trinity.
“And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets …”
In the Western church, which includes creedal Protestants, the words “and the Son” are added after “Who proceedeth from the Father …”
Blood has been shed over the difference.
Bishop Kallistos – Timothy Ware – a former Anglican who is a Greek Orthodox bishop and widely known teacher, offers deep empathy for everyone who struggles with the idea of Trinity.
He wrote, “I was listening to a talk in Oxford by an Egyptian friend, Dr. George Bebawi, who read from a 13th century Coptic manuscript in his possession. These words by the anonymous writer remain imprinted on my memory: ‘Life begins with the Trinity, and its end and aim is the Trinity.’ Life begins with the Trinity with baptism in the threefold name, its end and aim is the Trinity in heaven with the eternal Three. Yet how many of us can in truthfully say that the Trinity does indeed mean to us no less that this is our beginning and foundation, our final hope, the heart of our life?”
Lofty language. And difficult.
Kallistos fortunately is expansive and suggests one way to approach the Trinity is in terms of understanding “mutual love.”
Kallistos suggests that it is a way of saying that God is communion or community. God is “social,” “conciliar”; there is something in him that corresponds to the notion of (common conviction). Kallistos, who taught for decades at the University of Oxford, goes on to offer an even more compelling descriptive – that the Trinity is the “ultimate paradigm of personal relationships.”
The perfect love of the perfect God revealed in the Second Person, the human form, Jesus, in the Trinity, is accessible by ordinary people.
Kallistos once was asked by an American student in a summer institute class at Oxford, “What is orthodoxy’s social program?”
Without pausing, he focused on the student and said, “Our social program is the Holy Trinity.”
None of God’s grandeur need be lost in making God’s fullness known and related to people, even when there’s disagreement among mere mortals about phrasing and wording.
Human society was ordained by the Creator to be enriched as the “social program” of the Holy Trinity, which places God into our company always.
From the new Roman version of the Nicene Creed:
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father;
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.”