The Octave Day of Pentecost
commonly called Trinity SundayBy W. J. Hankey
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial
Homilies for the Eucharist Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common
Prayer, 1962, Canada. (p. 94-96)
St. Peter Publications
Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada, 1987.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
The Father shall give you another Comforter, that he may
abide with you forever. . . at that day ye shall know that I am in my Father,
and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14.16, and 20)
To see God as he is — that is the goal of life and the gift of the Holy
Spirit. In knowledge of God standeth our eternal life, says the Prayer
Book. (BCP, p.11) In God alone is the demand and desire to know the
reason of things, the need to know and possess the truth, in God alone
are these finally satisfied. Today, on the feast of the Trinity,
we celebrate that by the gift of the Spirit we now know through a glass
darkly and that finally we shall see face to face the high mystery of heaven,
the mystery of God himself, Father, Son and Spirit.
After this I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven: and
the first voice. . . said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things
which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the Spirit.
By the Spirit, we shall see and be satisfied.
But to see the great and terrible and holy God, to see and enjoy what
alone can satisfy, we must be made like him. St. John says:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet
appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall
be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath
this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John
3.2, and 3)
To stand in the presence of God, to know him and be known by him, immediately
and directly, we must be like him, acceptable to him, clothed with the
wedding garment of his heavenly feast.
But we are of the earth, earthy, and he is the Lord of heaven.
Since our willful fall into sin, we have had to eat bread by the sweat
of our brows, by belabouring the earth. We are not like God; the
grime of the earth has worked itself into our hands and to our souls.
This is why our Lord Jesus must needs have come, come to us, come down
from heaven to raise us up to the sight of God. He testified of what
he had seen and he gave to us the eternal life which he possessed.
He was raised up on the cross and resurrected from the dead. He ascended
into heaven that we who cling to him, we who are one body with him, might
be raised up to sight and life:
No man hath ascended up into heaven, but he that came down
from heaven, even the Son of Man, who is in heaven. And as Moses
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be
lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
eternal life. (John 3.13-1 6)
And now Jesus is ascended and reigns in heaven. His work on earth
completed, he sits at the right hand of the Father. His humanity,
our hope, resurrected and raised up, reposes in the glory of the eternal
life. But how shall we, here below, attain our hope, reach our glory?
This is the gift of the Spirit.
O God the King of Glory, who hast exalted thine only Son
Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: We beseech
thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort
us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone
before. (BCP, p.203)
So faithful to their promise, the Father and the Son have poured out their
Spirit. The Spirit who speaks nothing of himself, but who takes what
belongs to the Son, which the Son himself received of the Father, and shows
it unto us. The Spirit comes that we might know the Father and the
Son, and dwell by knowledge and love in their eternal life. By his
coming we know that Jesus is in the Father and that we are in Jesus and
that Jesus is in us. The Spirit’s mission is to incorporate us into
the life of the Trinity.
And so the Spirit is the Lord of the sacraments and especially of Baptism.
In that sacrament we are incorporated into the life-giving name and power,
into the eternal truth of God the Trinity. By sacred water, by spiritual
water, by the water become Spirit, we baptize into the name and glory of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. For Jesus said:
Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of
water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh; is flesh and that which is born of the
Spirit is spirit.
Unless we are born again of the Spirit, and by his water enter the death
and resurrection of Jesus, we cannot rise from the earth to behold the
face of God. That birth is the beginning of the gracious life of
the Trinity in us.
The Spirit works through time to build up and sustain the life of Trinity
in us. By the Spirit we are, through the sacrament of the Holy Communion,
incorporated into the Son so as to be acceptable to the Father. We
invoke the Spirit that by his power “all we who are partakers of this Holy
Communion may be fulfilled with grace f the Father] and heavenly benediction.”
(BCP p.83) It is the Spirit who makes us lift up our hearts.
And it is the spirit who thus transports us to where our great High Priest
offers his eternal intercession. There we adore the Lamb of God who
takes away the sin of the world and there he reaches out so as to make
us living members of his resurrection body. By his body in this sacrament,
we are bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh and are no more dust and ashes.
We are no longer of the earth, earthy, but are children of the family of
the heavenly Father. By the Spirit in the Son we are accepted of
our Father. This sacrament makes us ready to behold the face of God.
Trinity Sunday teaches us why the Spirit comes, and the manner of his
work. The Spirit comes so that we may see God and live. The
Spirit comes that we may know and be satisfied. The Spirit comes
to raise us into the life of the Father and the Son. He speaks not
of himself but of his Father and the Son, and he works by incorporating
us into the Son so that we may be accepted by our Father. The Spirit
works by Word and Sacrament. He works by making us understand mysteries
and he works by mysteries which pass our understanding. Our knowledge
of God, our love of God, our joy in God, our thanks to God, our peace in
believing— all these are the Spirit in us and the gifts of the Spirit to
us. Yet his operation is more than these. It is more than anything
we can now know, it is stronger than the love we have of God, and the joy
we feel in him. It is greater than the thanks that moves us toward
him and the peace that grounds and sustains us in God. The Spirit
works in us more greatly than present feeling, or knowledge, or love can
experience. The Spirit is the mission of the Trinity to us, the mission
by which the Trinity is in us and we are in him. In this way the
Spirit is leading us to more than our present eyes have seen, to more than
our ears have heard. He is leading us to the pleasure for which all
things are and were created: the sight of God, the face-to-face knowledge
of him who is the thrice holy Father, Son and Spirit, to whom belongs all
praise, honour, glory and thanksgiving now and forever more. Amen.