Today the Church celebrates the revelation of God as the Trinity.
The Trinity is who God is- there is one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As I said this is a revelation, meaning, that God shows himself to be the Trinity. The Trinity is not an idea about God or a theory about God. Instead, the Trinity is a revelation about God that comes from God himself. The Trinity is not an opinion about God, but a revelation from God, meaning that God tells us who he is, and what he reveals about himself is that he is the Trinity.
We know of the revelation of the Trinity from the Lord Jesus, who while witnessing to the truth that there is one God, he also presents himself as speaking and acting in the person of God, while at the same time testifying to his relationship with God as Father and sending forth God to us as Holy Spirit.
The revelation of the Trinity is Christ’s revelation. It is not something the Church made up to compensate for inconsistencies in her doctrines, but it is the truth about God that the Church receives from Christ himself.
Saints, sages and scholars have presented numerous ways of thinking about the revelation of the Trinity- these ideas gesture towards the reality of the Trinity, but they do not explain it. God is not a problem that can be solved. Nor can the truth about God’s revelation be reduced to our explanations or ideas. I realize that because the revelation of the Trinity inevitably involves referencing realities that are numerical- one God and three divine persons, that there is a tendency to think of the Trinity as some kind of mathematical theorem, an equation of sorts, as if the Church is adding up one plus three and somehow coming up with one, and so we rack our brains trying to think our way through a math problem, rather than facing up to the truth that in the Trinity, God reveals something significant about himself that we could not have figured out and cannot fully understand.
This does not mean that we simply throw up our hands and move on, but that we acknowledge with humility that while we can know God, even relate to him as one relates to a person, we cannot control God and reduce him to our categories of understanding, emotions and experiences.
Whatever we might think about God or feel about him, God is always serenely himself. He doesn’t need our ideas or feelings to be who he is. God is always, as the great St. Anselm opined- that than which nothing greater can be thought. I would dare to add to that that God is also that than which nothing greater can be felt. Just as God cannot be reduced to a matter of our mind, he also cannot be reduced to a matter of our feelings.
In fact, the revelation of the Trinity does, in a way, relativize or radically position all the thoughts, feelings and opinions we might have about God. Whatever we might think or feel or postulate about God, God gives to us the answer of who he really and truly is. God is the Trinity. Whatever we think or feel about God is measured against his own revelation. The Trinity is God’s way of indicating to us that whatever it is that we think that God is or whatever our feeling about God are, the truth of God’s revelation is far richer and infinitely more important.
Just a few more insights:
The Trinity reveals that God is one. In other words, there is only one God. This revelation gestures towards not only the truth about God, but a truth about ourselves- the truth that in our selfishness and sinfulness that we are makers of idols. Humans are quite proficient at taking created realities and elevating them to the status of God. We did that for centuries, taking powerful natural realities like the sun, the sky, and creatures of the earth, and creating cults of these things, hoping to gain a share in their power. But these things are not God.
More common now is to take our desires and elevate them to divine status, making them our ultimate concern. Think about how much we value wealth, pleasure, power and honors, and how our preoccupations with these things, attaining them, sustaining them is akin to a cult. We may not call these things gods, but through our behavior reveal that we certainly believe that this is what they are.
The revelation that God is one indicates to us that we have to make a decision about what God we will worship- we can’t just pick and choose. There is one, true God and the choice we must make us the one, true God or our idols. In this respect, the revelation of the Trinity compels us to a decision- will we give our lives over to God revealed by Jesus Christ, or will we give our lives over to the false gods that oppose him. Not to decide is to decide. We are compelled to a decision.
As a Christian, you do not believe that God is an abstraction or an emotion, or something that you can create out of your ideas or experiences. Further, God is not the sum total of your opinions about God. God is who Christ reveals God to be and this revelation is the Trinity.
Second, the Trinity reveals that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what Christians mean when we say God is Love. When we Christians say God is Love we aren’t saying our love is God or that our love justifies whatever it is that gives us what we want, but that God is a relationship called the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is through this relationship that God relates to his creation and to each of us personally. The revelation here is that God’s love looks like something, it is not an abstraction or merely a matter of emotions. God tells us what his love looks like, giving us the categories that best describe his love and he reveals his love to be the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Our takeaway from this is that God is not an indifferent cosmic force or a big being that sets the universe in motion are then moves on to other interesting projects. That God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals that God is personal and capable and interested in relationship with us.
Thus, when Christ reveals what he wants our relationship with him to be, he does not use the categories of math or science, but of becoming the children of God and living as his friends. One cannot have a relationship like this to a cosmic force or an idol, but only to a God who is personal and capable of relating to us and being in relationship with us.
This leads to another important insight- Christ did not come into this world so as to reveal a system of ethics, establish a social service institution, or provide political commentary. These are all things that are important to us, and what the Lord Jesus reveals has deep impact and influence in regards to all of them, but they are not the reasons for his revelation. Christ comes so as to offer to us a relationship with the living and true God. That’s what being a Christian is about- accepting that offer. The Trinity shows us the God who offers us a relationship and the form that relationship will take. A relationship with God in Christ means that you will call God your Father and Christ will be your brother and through the Holy Spirit you will know God with the intimacy of a friend. All this is Christ’s revelation. All this is the reason Christ came into the world, accepting a human nature and living a real, human life.
Finally, Christian faith is mysticism. By this I do not mean that it is arcane or esoteric or irrational, but that our faith cannot be reduced to our privileged ideas or concepts or categories. Why? Because it is an encounter with the living and true God. The Trinity indicates this to us. God is not a creature of our own making. He doesn’t need us in order to exist. He doesn’t have to love us. He is not manipulated by our prayers and the way of life he gives to us is not for his benefit, but for ours. We offer him nothing that would make him greater than he already is, and we can do nothing that would make him less than who he is.
By mysticism I mean that we come to know God, not simply through the postulations of our minds, the passion of our emotions or through the striving of our will, but because God has chosen to reveal himself to us. He doesn’t have to, but he does. This revelation of God has a form, and that form is the Trinity, and it is through this form that God makes himself known and invites us to know him.
This is the mystical truth that the Church reminds us of today on this great solemnity of the Trinity.