Trinity Sunday, 30 May 21
A little over sixty years ago I was singing in the choir at a Confirmation Mass in the church of the Holy Trinity at Ilfracombe. The then Bishop of Crediton who was confirming did a sort of question and answer session with the candidates immediately before confirming them . He happened to question a young lad, who had a speech impediment by reason of a cleft palate, asking him, “What do you understand by the Holy Trinity”. The lad made a reply but the bishop did not pick up his answer because of the speech impediment, and the fact that he himself was a bit hard of hearing. So he asked the boy to repeat his answer. The boy did so but the bishop had still not got it and said, “I`m sorry I don`t understand” to which the anxious lad retorted, “You are not supposed to – The Holy Trinity is a great mystery”. It seems the inspired lad was rather wiser than the bishop for God the Holy Trinity is, indeed, a great mystery which we only begin to understand when we enter into a relationship with our God.
The words of Moses that we find in the reading from Deuteronomy set the tone for this Great Feast: `Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: The Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as in earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.`
We know what happened the children of Israel did NOT keep the law and commandments and so it became necessary for God to send a procession of prophets and teachers culminating with Jesus, His only Son to make possible redemption for the whole human race!
Jesus, fulfilling the Father`s will, returns to Heaven some forty days after His being raised from the tomb but not before giving this command to his disciples: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
St. Paul, in that stupendous chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans begins to explain how we are at one with God the Holy Trinity. Jesus had promised that he would be with us to the end of the age and does so by the gift of his Holy Spirit who becomes one with our own spirit thus, through the waters of Baptism, making us sons and daughters of God so that we are able to cry out, `Abba, Father`. Literally we are able to address the Father in that most intimate way of calling him Abba - `Daddy` Indeed we become heirs of the Father and co-heirs with Jesus his Son. Yes, by adoption and grace we become brothers and sisters of Christ.
Of course, our God is One but manifests himself in a triune Unity as Three Persons in One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We get glimpses of the Trinity even in the Old Testament where the Word of God, one of the titles of Jesus, is the creative agent of God the Father in the act of creation and the Pneuma – the Holy Spirit is present too as God breathes on the face of the waters to breathe in Life.
Again, as Father Morris told us in a sermon a few years ago: ”W e get a vision of the Holy Trinity when Abraham entertains three angelic beings in Genesis 18 where Abraham boldly greets the three angels when we read: The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My Lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread that you may refresh yourselves, and, after that, you may pass on – since you have come to your servant. After the meal Sarah, in her old age, was blessed with pregnancy. Although three manifested themselves yet Abraham in his wisdom addressed them in the singular, “My Lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant….” Thus three persons in One God.
There are further less obvious references to the Holy Trinity in the Prophecy of Isaiah and, notably, chapter 42 verse 1: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen One in whom my soul delights. I have put my spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
There are two notable manifestations of the Holy Trinity in the New Testament; The Lord`s Baptism (Matthew 3, 13-17, Mark 1, 9 – 11, Luke 3, 21 – 22) when we see the Holy spirit descending on Jesus like a dove and the Father`s voice declaring, “You are may Son, the Beloved; with you I am well leased.” The second manifestation is at the end of the Lord`s ministry when he took with Him, Peter and John and James up the mountain, probably Tabor, in Upper Galilee and there appeared with Jesus Moses and Elijah as witnesses to His Transfiguration or showing Himself forth in all his glory. Once again the volice of the Father is heard saying, “”This I my Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matthew 17, 5. Mark9, 2 – 8, Luke 9, 28 – 36).
St. John, whose Gospel is written in a rather more mystical way than the more factual accounts given by Matthew, Mark and Luke does not specifically record either the Lord`s Baptism or His Transfiguration.
The fact remains that the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is beyond our understanding and we only began to understand as we enter into a relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit through our relationship with Him in Word and Sacraments and in our Prayer Life. All too often we try to explain what we cannot fully conceive of and end up by making God in our own image rather than letting ourselves be conformed to Him.