It’s really difficult to talk about God, isn’t it? I’m not saying that for people whose relationship is so intimate that it’s like an invasion of privacy. The name is so sacred to the Jews, for example, that out of reverence they do not even pronounce the divine name. I’m referring to the fact that we know we aren’t talking about a person like any other, but in this day and age we really like definitions. We Christians have a triple difficulty because we celebrate “one God in three persons.” Of course there’s always the issue of political correctness as well, especially it seems, for North Americans so over the last half century we have tried out many alternatives to the trinitarian Father, Son and Holy Spirit, including determination by role, as in Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. In progressive or feminist circles, we’ve heard Mother/Father God, and the list goes on with nothing definitive that satisfies everyone – and those for whom Father, Son and Holy Spirit is just fine breathing a sigh of relief.
I don’t mean to be facetious or disrespectful here to anyone’s belief. We live in a time where information abounds and culture is evolving at warp speed. There have been many theological treatises written on this very topic and still the reality cannot be contained in language. One of the best conversations about the nature of the Trinity, I think, is centered around the fact that, as it says in one of John’s letters, “God is love.” Sounds simple and is most profound. The premise of how this works in the Trinity is called perichoresis, a Greek word that implies a sort of dance. As the Father loves the Son and the love between them is so strong as to be seen as an entity (the Holy Spirit) they are not separate but flow into each other in the manner by which one author explains that “it can be defined as co-indwelling, co-inhering, and mutual interpenetration which allows the individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two.” (Alister Mc Grath)This relationship is seen as dynamic, not static, which is why the image is envisioned as circular, a dance of relationship and energy. I love this image because it speaks to the possibility of our ability to replicate this dance of love to some degree in our human life.
Why all this talk about Trinity? Today Christians the world over celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity – a great moment to ponder the reality and expand our consciousness of the nature of the God who will always remain a mystery while yet being the Love that is “closer to us than we are to ourselves.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)