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Trinity Sunday

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church Windsor AD 2004

“Thou art worthy, O Lord”


We cannot not talk about God. But what shall we say? How shall we speak? “He, therefore that would be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity”, and speak thus, too, we might add, think and speak in this way is what the Athanasian Creed, so-called, demands.


But what is that way of thinking and speaking?  The way of affirmation and the way of negation, to be sure, ways which recognize God as the fundamental principle of the being of all things, on the one hand, and distinguish God absolutely from everything, on the other hand.  The interplay of these two ways, so wonderfully laid out in the Athanasian Creed, avoid the twin dangers of collapsing God into our discourse, into our ways of speaking, and denying the possibility of thinking the truth of God altogether.


Paradoxically, these twin dangers, which are the dangers of our culture both within and without the Christian Churches, belong to a despair of revelation, a despair of thinking God in the form of the witness of the Scriptures, on the one hand, and in the form of philosophical and theological discourse, on the other hand.  It is the interplay of these two sides – the witness of the Scriptures understood as the Revealed Word of God and the intellectual integrity of our philosophical and theological traditions of reason – that are at issue in our world and day.


And yet, it is precisely what we celebrate today.  Trinity Sunday is not about one doctrine – one teaching - among many others.  It is not a teaching for one time and not for another as if it were merely some matter from the dust-bin of history.  No.  It is the central and defining doctrine of the Christian Faith, the doctrine which brings coherence and order to the many, many ways of speaking about God in the Scriptures and in the great religions and philosophies of the world.  We cannot not think God as Trinity.  We cannot not speak of him as Trinity.


We behold a mystery but the mystery lies not in what is concealed but in what is revealed, the mystery which we can never hope nor want to exhaust and so reduce to ourselves, the mystery, however, about which we are obliged to speak and say something, to say, in fact, what God has given us to think and say, the things which raise us up into the Spirit.


For “behold, a door was opened in heaven” – not just a window through which we might peer as in a glass darkly – but a door through which we might enter humbly.  We have been drawn into the mystery of the life of God, the God who is declared to us unambiguously and without being collapsed into the world as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; the God who is Trinity.


The Trinity is not one image alongside of other images for our thinking and speaking about God.  It is the definite and comprehensive image which unites the whole pageant of revelation in the witness of the Scriptures, the motions of God for us, with the wonder and mystery of God in himself.


Scripture presents us with a great number of ways of thinking about God.  The traditions of philosophy and even individual human experience may suggest a great number of ways of thinking about God.  But this does not mean that the Scriptures or human experience present simply a smorgasbord of images about God from which we are each free to pile up our own salad plate of divinity.  For that would be merely a god for me and so no God at all.  We would empty the images of Scripture and experience of any content and meaning.  The doctrine of the Trinity, in fact, gives coherence and meaning to the various images of God in Scripture, tradition and reason, without which they fall into competing and mutually exclusive positions and ultimately result in a kind of atheism.


To distinguish God from everything else is to say that he is no thing, which is not to say that God is nothing.  It is to say that he is not one thing like any other thing, another being in the vast plethora of beings.  No.  God has to be utterly distinguished from being identified with the being of the things of the world precisely as the cause and principle of their being.  How God can be related to the world and radically other than the world is the real meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity.  We celebrate nothing less than the mystery of the divine relations – God’s own relation to himself which is the principle of his relation to all else.


This gives coherence and meaning to the images of Scripture because there is an order and a hierarchy of images.  The definite images are those of Father, Son and Holy Ghost which at once suggest an intimacy and a remove.  These are precisely not images which are the projections of social and political arrangements belonging to earlier cultures.  God as Father is not like a human father; nor is God as Son like a human son and, perhaps, it is that elusive and ambiguous third, the Holy Ghost who most helps us to realize the nature of the deep mysteries of God which cannot be reduced to the world but which cannot be in flight from the world either.  There is the redemption of all the images of God through the definite revelation of God as Trinity.


Our lessons make this clear.  It is all about worship, all about the worthiness of God.  It requires of us that we be born again, born anew, born from above, which is to say that our minds have to be exercised upon the high things of God which have been opened out to us through the witness of the Scriptures given cogency and understanding in the Trinity and through the exercise of our highest thinking, our thinking metaphysically.


“Thou art worthy, O Lord”