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An elderly, bearded gentleman, with a benevolent, yet powerful face and flowing beard.  A Jewish looking man hanging on the cross, with body bruised, but spirit somehow intact and triumphant.  A nebulous spirit kind of dove image.  I suspect that for many of us, those images are among our first images when we try to visualize the Trinity – God as Father, Son and Spirit.  I came across a different set of words as I was studying the changes for the priest in the New Edition of the Roman Missal.  They are taken directly from St. Paul.

Grace.          Love.            Communion.

The GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ, the LOVE of God and the COMMUNION of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (Communion replaces the word “Fellowship” in our current liturgy.)  If you notice, those are all words that describe relationships.  They describe what happens between people and among people and for people as they interact.

These word of St. Paul are captured in the meaning of an ancient term used by the Greek Fathers when they were trying to hammer out a theology of the Trinity – Perichoresis.  That Greek word literally means a ‘going around’, and suggests a vigorous dance-like movement – each person circling, interweaving, whirling in vibrant interaction with the others.  The point of this dance of love, however, is not just the enjoyment of the divine dancers only.  The dance is an open circle that invites all onto the dance floor drawing them right into the midst of the energetic flow of divine delight.

I was at a wedding reception of a Catholic to a Greek Orthodox some years ago, and I saw this in action.  The DJ started playing a certain song, and there was this massive RUSH to the edge of the dance floor.  Then the bride and groom joined hands, and started this side by side dance – a few steps to the left, a few steps to the right, a little Zorba the Greek dip, with a few more moves thrown in, and then two more people join the line.  Repeat, the steps and then four people.  Then eight.  And more.  And more.  The bride and groom and slowly leading this line into a smaller and smaller circle.  And soon, the entire floor is wrapped up in this intricate, weaving, dance, as the music builds and the energy builds and the people weave tighter and tighter.  Eventually, the entire reception is now wrapped around the couple as the dance and sing and enjoy one another in the amazing dance of love and friendship and COMMUNION.  It is thegrace of the couple, the love they have exchanged and shared with each other, that forms the communion of love at the heart of this most amazing dance.

That image, of the bride and groom, at the center of this amazing energy and movement, is my favorite image of the Trinity.  I fear too often, in my prayer, and in my thinking about God as Father, Son and Spirit, I miss the energy and the movement that is the nature of God.  Static images are not what the Greek Fathers thought about the Trinity, nor what Paul suggests in those words which are so often the invitation to the beginning of our Mass – grace, love and communion.  They invite us, like people at a Greek wedding reception, into a dance of delight and relationship with the one who is at the heart of it all.

Paul suggests some practical steps for the dance.  Rejoice.  Mend you ways.  Encourage one another.  Seek agreement.  Live in peace.  Greet one another with the holy kiss.  In these ways, we help one another onto the dance floor – circling ever closer and closer to each other and to our God who is at the center of it and is the source of it all.  In that way, we become one with the very source of grace and love and communion.

May the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the LOVE of God and the COMMUNION of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.  Amen. Amen

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What difference does the Trinity make in our lives?

I have to tell you a secret.  I spent a week here on earth, walking with the Trinity.  And like the triune God we know and love, it was in the form of a single person.  His name was Benjamin.  He was 33.  I found out on Sunday night that he was going to be one of my 3 charges for the week.  He was a mentally handicapped resident like all the people on “State” week. That, I was used to.  He was also deaf.  That I wasn’t.  I wasn’t sure I could handle that.  But when he came off the bus and I “mimed” and introduction as his counselor, he smiled a smile that lit his entire face up.  And I thought:  I might just be okay.

After two days – we developed a few rituals.

When the morning wake up call came, he was always cocooned in his blanket– oblivious to all the commotion around him.  So I would gently wake him.  The covers would come back, and his first act of every day was to smile….  His first act each day was to smile.  And in that moment, I knew a God who smiled upon me.  I knew a Father who in his goodness blessed me with life and love and the gift of a new day.

A second ritual was around his smoking habits.  He always wanted the “after-meal cigarette.”  So he would mime that he wanted one.  I would mime walking down to the cabin so my other campers could do what they needed.  He was always contented to wait on me and always trusting that I would be fair/would live up to my promises.  And as he smoked, he would stand there in my presence, and there was nothing more important in the world than being there and enjoying each other’s company.   If I tried to leave, he’d get agitated.  But standing there with him – that was his universe, all in that moment.  Standing there, he was connected to me and I to him.  And that was all he needed. I came to know what it was to be “Son” at that moment.  Obedient to the father.  Content to trust in the father.  Content to delight in God’s presence.

Finally, there were the crafts, though we only had them twice – Wed and Friday.  He liked to draw with crayons.  It became a guessing game as to what he would draw. On the last day he drew something I couldn’t figure out.  I gestured. (hold hands up in questioning form)  He held up hand in the “Wait” gesture.  THEN HE  WROTE the word WINDOW below it.  HE could write.  NO ONE TOLD ME!  He could communicate by writing.  I was blown away in joy and amazement.  The last thing he wrote that Friday was: “I love you”.  And I knew God’s Spirit – who surprises us with joy, who teaches me how to communicate and who finds a way to speak the Love of God into our hearts…

That is what we celebrate this day.  Not an abstract concept of Trinity –one nature, two processions, three persons, four relationships – not the technical vocabulary that the church so carefully hammered out with words like spiration, perichoesis, homoousion – but a personal God – a God in whose image we are created.  And if we image that God, then we will only find our fullness as human beings when our lives mirror the actions and life of the Trinity.

Though my experience of God as triune is not limited to Benjamin, it is a good place to start.  So I invite you this week to walk in the awareness of the Trinity.

Walk with the Father who smiles upon his world, and who created you and me with such dancing and celebrating in our presence.  Let your first act of each day be to smile upon this world…

Walk with the Son – who is obedient to the Father, who delights in being in the Father’s presence, whose whole world is the Father’s will.  How will you let your life be ‘turned toward the Father’?  How will you be obedient this week?

Walk with the Spirit, who will help you find ways to communicate love to the world.  Seek to discover a vocabulary to speak to those who are far off in your family or in your world. And expect the Spirit surprise you with joy sometime this week.

It was not a text book – but a person who taught me best about the trinity.  So, too, it will not be a homily- but a walking with God who is Father, Son and Spirit who will teach us to live his life more deeply.  May we walk with our God this week…

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