May 31, 2012
This Sunday is the Trinity Sunday, one of the seven principle feast days of the year and the only one that addresses squarely what we believe as Christians. The tradition of the Sunday following Pentecost marking the Holy Trinity began when Thomas Becket was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on that day in 1162 and called for the observance of Trinity Sunday on that day ever after.
Rublev’s icon painted in the early 15th Century is the most famous attempt to capture the concept of the Trinity in art. It leaves the impression that our God resides in an ongoing conversation of creation, redemption, and sanctification and that we are invited to sit at God’s table and enter into the conversation.
While the Trinity is a statement of doctrine it is at its heart an affirmation of mystery. Logically, it is a paradox. Something cannot be three and one at the same time. I think one source of the power of this way of pondering God is drawn from this paradox. Brain science has shown that the human mind struggling with a logical paradox causes a neural firing that ignites all regions of one’s brain. One of the exercises Albert Einstein used to stimulate his mind in seeking the discovery of his theory of relativity was to simply sit and contemplate paradox.
Throughout Christian history people have attempted to nail down the doctrine surrounding the Trinity into declarative statements. The most famous is found in The Creed of Saint Athanasius. This statement written for Christian worship in the 5th Century (though not likely the work of St. Athanasius) lays out in strong language Trinitarian belief:
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory
equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost
Book of Common Prayer, p. 862.
The key word here is incomprehensible. As Anglicans we are comfortable with the incomprehensible. We worship the incomprehensible. Having mystery and paradox – rather than certainty – at the heart of our faith is not disturbing for us. The opposite of certainty is not doubt, but faith.
So fire up your brain this Sunday when we as a church try to wrap our minds around the great paradox at the heart of our belief. Father, Son and Holy Spirit invite you to the table to drink deeply of the mystery of our faith.