Saturday, May 25, 2013

TRINITY SUNDAY:2013 (with thanks and apologies to Dr. Mascall)

The Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity

There are may be some brave souls who sincerely hope that the preacher on Trinity Sunday will be able at last to explain that great enigma of the Christian religion, the doctrine of the Trinity. Many more likely fear that he will try to do so and put everyone to sleep in the process.

But that Athanasian Creed, even if it gives you a headache with all its talk of Father uncreated, Son uncreated, Holy Ghost uncreated, yet not three uncreated, tells us we ought to be up to something quite different from thinking about a doctrine when we consider the Holy and Undivided Trinity:

The Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.

What Trinity Sunday is about is worship. That is why the first two readings are about worship.

The prophet Isaiah seeing the Lord high and lifted up on a throne with seraphim singing the Sanctus: Holy, Holy, Holy

The book of Revelation the twenty four elders before the throne singing

            Worthy art thou, O Lord God, to receive glory and honor and power

There are all kinds of great things that you might do with a doctrine, think about it, divide it up into parts and aspects, chronicle its history, consider its social and moral implications, and so forth. We might even try to make intellectual sense out of a doctrine.  There is not a thing wrong with this. Indeed it is a necessary thing. But what would be really odd would be to worship a doctrine.

When I was in seminary and my professors told me to read Liberation Theology, I read Dr. Eric Mascall instead. I understand that there was a  professor of theology at Nashotah House who would not allow anyone to quote Mascall in their papers. I wondered, when I heard this, if the ban extended to Dr. Mascall's serious poetry like

 There once was a clergyman named Sturges
Who wanted to start the Asperges
The congregation said "no"
They preferred to stay low
It's a very hard life is the clergy's'

The most attractive thing about E L Mascall was that he did not take himself too seriously. But he was completely serious when he wrote:

The Trinity is not primarily a doctrine, any more than the Incarnation is primarily a doctrine. There is a doctrine about the Trinity, as there are doctrines about many other facts of existence, but, if Christianity is true, the Trinity is not a doc­trine; the Trinity is God.

Faith seeks understanding to be sure – that is the kind of being human beings are, we want to figure things out.  But there is no guarantee that we will get it and it is a sure thing that we will not get it all. For that very reason God has come out of his hiding and revealed to us what we have to know. In fact that is why we worship Him out of gratitude for His revelation of Himself.

Again Dr. Mascall:

the fact that God is Trinity-that in a profound and mysterious way there are three divine Persons eternally united in one life of complete perfection and beatitude  . . . is the secret of God's most in­timate life and being, into which, in his infinite love and generosity, he has admitted us; it is therefore  to be ac­cepted with amazed and exultant gratitude.

In heaven a door stood open, the Book of revelation says.

Jesus said:I am the door.


Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

To which we might add many philosophers as well as the guy who sits in his backyard looking up at evening sky and wonders what it is all about.

But Jesus has let us in on the biggest secret there is: his teaching, life, death and resurrection has revealed to normal folks like us the mystery of the very life and being of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

The Trinity is the way that Christendom affirms that other simple and mysterious dictum of St. John the Divine: God is love.

The unmoved mover, the cause of all causes and effects, the intelligence that built the universe, that than which nothing is greater is a personal God, of unimaginable splendor, bliss, and love upon whom the world and human beings depend for their existence from moment to moment, three Persons, united in one life of perfect mutual giving and receiving, a giving and receiving, a life of sharing so perfect and intense that the most intimate of human unions bears only a remote and analogical comparison to it.

'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" is the promise of Christ in the Beatitudes, and that the end of man is the vision of God has been a commonplace of Christian spirituality down the ages. We are made for this and this our destiny.

Of course we moderns are never content simply to know. We want to know 'so what?'.

O blessed glorious Trinity, 
Bones to philosophy, but milk to faith

God has not revealed himself to us as Holy Trinity simply in order to satisfy our intellectual curiosity or even in order that we shall simply gaze upon his transcendent glory' and beauty in spellbound delight, but in order that we shall be taken up into the very life of God himself.

not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by the taking of Manhood into God

As the Fathers repeatedly insist, the Son of God became man that we men might become sons of God, he took our nature that we might be taken into his, he has become what we are that we may become what he is, he was humanized that we might be divinized; and this nature into which we are taken.

The Catholic faith is this:

Meaning that the whole of Christian faith is found in the willingness of man to fall down upon his knees and, again in the words of John Doone, to have his heart battered by ‘the three-person’d God.” 

The Catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity

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