Do you remember how you learned about the Trinity? For some of us, it may have been in Lesson 3 of the Baltimore Catechism where questions like: “What is the Blessed Trinity?” were posed. (Answer: “The Blessed Trinity is one God in three Divine Persons.”) Or, perhaps our teachers used more visual aids — shamrocks — to show how three can be one. Either way, the Trinity is always a Mystery, and I’m glad of it!
I find the fact that the Trinity is beyond our rational understanding entirely comforting. It means that all the language we use to talk about God, whether the Q&As of the Baltimore Catechism or the visual metaphors of more recent catechesis, will always be inadequate. Human language just isn’t up to the task of transmitting the height and depth and width and breadth of God. So we’re left with puzzles, mysteries even, that our human minds struggle to solve. And the fact that we can’t solve them is very good. It reminds us that we are not God, that God is beyond and within us, and that God is not something we understand but Someone we know.
The mystery of the Trinity is an invitation rather than a prescription for coming to know God. By trying to fit three persons into one being, we’re left with a concept that invites contemplation. How can this be so? How does each person of the Trinity reveal Godself to us? Which manifestation of the Trinity speaks most to us in the different seasons of our lives?
Until recently, Jesus was my entryway into the divine but, as I get older, I am coming to rely more and more on the Spirit who has been with God “since before the beginnings of the earth!” I now image God as the divine breath — or ru’ah — that sustains me. But that’s OK. The Trinity is a big enough mystery to contain my changing images of God.
The Trinity also teaches us about being human. If we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1, 27); and if that God is one being in three persons; then, just as God is, we humans are built for relationship. Loving human relationships become the manifestation of God’s essence in creation. The relationships between humans and the planet and other non-human creatures are also the reflections of the overflowing love of the Trinity. As humans, we are called to nurture relationships, or live in “right relationship,” because we are created in the image of the One who is Lover — Beloved — and the Love that flows between them.
The Trinity reminds us in a powerful way that we don’t have to be afraid of difference. The mystery of the Trinity models for us the possibility of unity in diversity. It encapsulates the paradox that we experience in healthy human interactions: when we embrace the other with compassion we do not lose our identity but, rather, grow to a deeper understanding of ourselves. The Trinity highlights this mystery and invites us to stretch our compassion toward those we perceive as different. As Gandhi said: “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” A Christian believer in the Trinity might say: “Our ability to bear witness to the unity in diversity of the Trinity will be the beauty and test of our civilization!”
Finally, the readings of Trinity Sunday tell us one more important thing about the God who is Three-in-One. They remind us that this God delights in us and in all creation. “Who are we that God is mindful of us?” asks the psalmist. We are God’s creatures, the work of the hands of the Trinity. As such, we are invited to know God, to live in relationship and embrace difference with compassion. The only appropriate response is praise so let us join in the refrain: O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Rompré is the director of Mission and Ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.