A Meditation for Trinity Sunday

Rublev's Icon of the Trinity

Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity

Consider the following statements:

  • There is no God but Allah
  • God Bless You
  • May the Force be with You
  • Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Depending on one’s definition of “Allah” or “the Force” or “God,” each of these statements might be referring to the same divine being and simply using different words to do so. On the other hand, they could each be making radically different statements.

Gregory of Nazianzus is famous for saying “when I say God, I mean Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Oration 38.8). Perhaps Gregory has a point, perhaps we need to be careful to be clear about what we mean when we say “God.”

If we are speaking of the God who is incarnate in the person of Jesus then we are speaking of the God who is Triune. To speak of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is to speak of the God who is loving relationship, the God who doesn’t just “do relationship” but is relationship. The God who doesn’t just love but is love. When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are speaking of the God who is personal, connected, and relational, and we are therefore not speaking of God as merely an impersonal force at work in the world.

We see this in the story told by our liturgical year. It tells the story of the Father sending the Son to descend into our existence, take hold of us, and then ascend, taking us with him into the relational life of love he shares with the Father. As the Father’s children through the Son we now share in the life of the Spirit who proceeds from the Father, through the Son, and baptizes us with the Son into his relationship with the Father.

This is the significance of Trinity Sunday. It is fitting – having celebrated this story of our adoption over the course of the last six months – that we should now have a day dedicated to God’s life as Trinity. That Triune Life is not something we could have known if we had not known this story of the Son’s descending and ascending to take us into God’s life. But now that we have heard and believed the story, we have an idea of what it means to say “God.” When we say “God” we mean “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

~ Jonathan Stepp

This post originally appeared at the Scholar-Priest Initiative.

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