Trinity as Story and Song

eucharist1When we talk about the Trinity as a doctrine consisting of three Persons in one Deity, we tend to feel that we have grasped it to some degree. That is the way it is with concepts and doctrines. But the Trinity is a story much more than it is a doctrine. (See The Infinite round Dance.) As a story, the Trinity is no more graspable than the wind as Nicodemus found out. That is the nature of stories: to be ungraspable. Try to grasp anything in a story and you lose everything but the fragment you grasp. Might as well grasp at a note or two of a song and try to get a hold of the song. The story of the Trinity is the story of the Paschal Mystery, told succinctly in the famous verse, Jn :17, that God sent God’s only Son out of love for the world so that the world would not be judged but saved. In the sending, the Spirit acted out the bond of love between the Father and the Son. The Trinity also enters into the stories of each and every one of us as, through the Spirit, we cry “Abba! Father!” So it is that the Spirit makes us joint heirs with Christ. Paul tells us that as the Spirit enters our stories, we participate in Christ’s suffering and glory so that our own sufferings are shared by Christ and Christ’s glory becomes ours. After the threefold cry of “Holy!” in the temple, the Spirit sends the prophet Isaiah as the Father sends the Son and the Holy Spirit. Like Isaiah, we are sent by the Son and the Spirit to each other.

The Trinity as story shows us that a person is not a rugged individualist but is, in its very essence, a person is relationship. No relationship, no person. Our analogies with stories and music help us again here. The words of a story or a poem have very limited meaning individually but they take on much meaning in relationship to one another. The same is true with individual notes becoming a song when joined one to another. A triad is made up of three notes but it is one chord. The Persons of the Trinity hold nothing back from one another and ideally neither should we with one another. Trying to grasp our non-existent individuality is like trying to grasp a story or a song or the wind. If we are to be ourselves, we must let go as the Persons of the Trinity are always letting go so that we always go where we are sent whether it is halfway around the world or—as is most often the case—to the person next to us.

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Respecting All Things that God has Made

buddingTree1The Book of Common Prayer gives us an important focus for Lent by starting the collect for the Ash Wednesday Eucharist with “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of those who are penitent.” So often, we blame the material world for our sins and then hate what God has made which God also loves. In a sense, the material world becomes a scapegoat for our own disordered desires. If we eat too much, it isn’t really the fault of the food, though we quickly blame it for our own lack of self-control. Women, of course, have been blamed for being “tempting” as if it is their responsibility to control the desires of men while men need take no responsibility for themselves.

To complicate the picture, René Girard has demonstrated many times in his books that our desires are intertwined with the desires of others in a dense network of mutual imitation. If we become ensnared in desires for certain things or certain people because others desire them, we are in a frustrating situation and, again, it becomes convenient to blame the other people and other things for the pickle we are in.

We need to remember that God is our model for perfect love for all that God has made. That means that, unlike Zeus and many other mythological deities, God does not lust after humans but loves all humans with perfect respect. The more we respect other people and all things in the world, the more restraint we have in relation to them. So it is that when we repent and turn to God, we also turn to all things and to all people that God has made with new respect and love.