The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian. He was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three Persons and to be able to explain it logically. One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup with sea water, ran up and emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine drew up and said to her, “Little child, what are you doing?” She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” “How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared. I stand here now with my small head to tell you about the immensity of our God; to tell you in no uncertain terms that God is by His nature Trinitarian, that is, three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And to tell you that no one actually understands any of this.
All three of the readings appointed for today shed a little light on the Trinity, but not a whole lot. The word Trinity isn’t even in the Bible, so we don’t go looking for the word; instead, we go looking for the Persons.
The prophet Isaiah told us about that one time he was transported into a weird and wonderful place, a world of six-winged creatures and massive golden thrones and altars with fiery bowls of incense. You can almost hear that voice-over guy in the film trailers: “In a world where nothing is impossible…” Well, that world is Heaven itself, the six-winged creatures are Seraphim, one of the highest orders of angels, and those seraphim sing a constant song: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” Again, the word Trinity is not there, but the Persons of the Trinity are; each of the Three get their own “holy” – each of the Three are praised in and of Themselves, but of course, praised together.
And so it is with Blessed John. John told us of that same Heaven, that same throne and altar, of six-winged creatures and songs of praise. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” John saw the Father on the throne but could not or did not describe Him; the Son as a Lamb which is slain, the Spirit all around, John saw the blessed Trinity, he saw God in three Persons, distinct and yet in unity, worshiped all three and yet as one.
In his Gospel account, John recorded Jesus for us talking about three Persons in the Godhead. In the Gospel passage we just heard Jesus talked about His Father, and how He and His Father are one. Jesus also spoke of the Spirit, and spoke of the Spirit as distinct from the Father but proceeding from both nonetheless. I guess we shouldn’t have expected Jesus to clear things up there.
I guess “like Augustine we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity but I think it is very important to understand the why. Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of [His]…Being? The importance of this doctrine (at least for us this morning) lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves [and how we are to relate to God]. Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the god they worship. People who worship a warrior god tend to be warmongering, people who worship a god of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking, people who worship a god of wrath tend to be vengeful, and people who worship a god of love tend to be loving. Like a god, so the worshippers. Therefore, the more important question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?”
Well, “God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community [of sorts, a community of three Persons, a community] of love and sharing. God is not a loner [even in Himself]. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world like that of certain Buddhist…traditions where the quest for holiness means permanent withdrawal to the Himalayas away from contact and involvement with people and society.” Rather just as God is by nature communal, so we too need community, we need each other, we need other Christians to strengthen us, to help us hold fast to each other and to our God.
And just as God is three and yet One, we should think of our relationships in a similar way. Three should no longer be a crowd. We should strive to make you and me and God. You and you and God.
“The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt… an I-and-God-and-neighbour principle. So I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people.” In structuring our relationships that way we begin to not only acknowledge God but also to invite His blessing on our relationships.
Our heads might not be able to understand all of this; my small head certainly doesn’t. But even if the heads of Christians can’t fit the immensity of our God, perhaps the hearts of Christians can at least begin to. May God so fill our hearts with His love that we love with His love, that we sing like the seraphim, and live together as one, even as He is One.
Quotes taken from Sermon: Trinity Sunday by Fr. Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp.