Sunday, May 30, 2021

Experience the Trinity


 Experience the Trinity


On the first Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate the  Trinity.  It is fitting to place this important feast as we reenter Ordinary Time since the inner life of the Trinity illustrates how we should live our lives.  

Ii is not my intention in this post to explain what it means to say: We believe in one God who has three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What I am going to do, however,  is share with you some images of God as Trinity.

The first is the story of Saint Augustine who met a small, boy on the beach who was attempting to empty the ocean into a bucket. And when he told the boy that he could never accomplish that task, the boy, who turned out to be an angel, reminded St. Augustine, “And you cannot fit the Trinity into your tiny little brain.”

And, the angel is correct, trying to understand the mystery of God with our intellect, as Saint Augustine was attempting to do, is impossible.

The second image is from Saint Bonaventure. Being a Franciscan, he turned to his experience of God, rather than philosophy, which led him to picture God as three distinct buckets on a water wheel, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And as the water wheel turned the bucket of one, the Father, was fully emptied into the bucket of the Son; this was followed by the Son fully emptying himself into the Spirit, and then the Spirit emptying himself into the Father  – and each totaling emptying themselves without expectation they would receive in kind. In other words, Bonaventure perceived through his experience that the Trinity is a model of self-giving love. And, as love is an idea that cannot be fully understood or adequately explained by the intellect, so this is true of the Trinity, it can only be grasped by the heart.

Clearly, Saint Bonaventure’s thinking was influenced by scripture passages, such as Deuteronomy and Paul's letter to the Romans.  For example, in Deuteronomy  we hear Moses tell his people remember the great things God has done for us and acknowledge that today within you heart. (4:32-40)  And in Romans Paul describes how we become children of God, one with the Trinity, if we allow the Spirit to open our hearts to God’s love. (8: 14-17) 

The third image is found in a well-known icon by Rublev, where he depicts the three persons of the Trinity sitting at a table with an empty spot. You may recall it. Apparently in his original icon, there was a small mirror pasted to this empty spot, so that when you gazed at this icon, you saw yourself as part of the trinity. In other words, all baptized people are part of the mystery of God.

These images confirm that we can never fit the Trinity into our tiny brains, but if we let our experience of God’s love speak to us, then we can picture God, as Bonaventure did, as love, who ceaselessly gives it away, and ceaselessly is refilled.

The final image, which I really believe helps us to experience the Trinity flows from Jesus’ blessing in the gospel today when he sent his disciples out in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

Here in this small action, you are given one of the best explanations of the Trinity. Consider for a moment the words and actions that we experience – don’t try to understand it, go with the flow.

When we do the sign of the cross we start by touching our forehead and saying in the name of the Father; essentially, we are saying to God who dwells in the heavens, fill my mind with your love.

Then our hand moves down and touches our chest, our heart, and we say, “and of the Son”, this movement reminds us how God descended from heaven, incarnated himself in Jesus, to be one with us and so we ask: God to fill our hearts with the love of God as expressed by Jesus;

 then the sweeping motion of our hands from left to right, shoulder to shoulder, crossing over our heart, as we say – of the HOLY SPIRIT – we are saying God, may you put your arms around me, may I be held in your love, so that I may be one with you – Father- Son and Holy Spirit.


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