Trinity Sunday 2019
Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
The liturgy professor of my seminary days, never one to mince words, used to refer to today’s feast as “a liturgical sore thumb”, by which he meant that Trinity Sunday doesn’t celebrate one of the great events of salvation history, such as the Nativity, the Epiphany, the Resurrection, or the descent of the Spirit, or even the events of the great Marian feasts: instead, it is inserted into the calendar to remind us of a doctrine. Admittedly, it is the central doctrine of the Christian faith, but it is a doctrine nonetheless, and not an event.
Or is it? Perhaps the Holy Trinity is best understood as an ongoing event: the Father, continuously and from all eternity, generating the Son in and through the Holy Spirit, who is the love and the power between Father and Son, and that love and interrelationship within the Trinity being the power which sustains the universe.
Perhaps we might express it in these terms: if there were no Trinity, there would be no love and no life. Without the ongoing relationship and activity of the Trinity, the universe would be cold and dead: in fact, it would cease to exist. Everyone is familiar with the saying “It’s love which makes the world go round”. In the case of the love within, and emanating from the Holy Trinity, that is literally true.
We can see this in the practice of our faith, if we consider the Third Eucharistic Prayer, where we observe that everything is rooted in the Trinity. The new translation of the prayer isn’t entirely helpful. The former translation began “Father, you are holy indeed”, making it clear which member of the Trinity we are addressing, whereas the present version uses the term “Lord” which is slightly more ambiguous.
However, as the prayer continues, it becomes clear that the term “Lord” does indeed refer to the Father. The prayer rejoices that the Father “gives life to all things and makes them holy” through the Son, “by the power and working of the Holy Spirit”. Thus it is the Trinity, with each member working in unity, through whom not only holiness comes, but life itself.
In particular, the Mass is shown to be wholly Trinitarian. The Father is asked to make holy the gifts by the Spirit, so that they may become the Body and Blood of the Son, with whose self-offering to the Father we are united. Then, after the consecration, the Father is asked that “we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with His Holy Spirit, may become one Body, one Spirit in Christ.” All the Eucharistic prayers conclude with the doxology (“though Him, with Him, and in Him”) the great proclamation of praise of the Trinity.
Rudyard Kipling makes one of his characters speak of “your cold Christ and tangled Trinities.” Christ is certainly far from cold, and whilst the Trinity may appear tangled, its interweaving is in fact the source of life, of love, of all that exists.