The Holy Trinity

new-color-logo31This Sunday is Trinity Sunday and you can find readings for this weekend’s mass here.

But just what the heck is the Holy Trinity anyway?  We can default to the old school definition that many of us learned in religious education growing up that God is “one in three” or “three persons in one God”.  While those are satisfactory textbook definitions, they do little to help many people understand just what God is.  One of my old radio colleagues once asked, “If I invited God over for dinner, how many places would I have to set?” *Chuckle*

The first thing I would like to note about the Holy Trinity is that it is a mystery.  That’s not a cop-out answer on my part either.  Rather, it serves to mean that God is bigger than our concepts. It also means that while we don’t know everything about God, God does reveal Himself to us in at least a few ways and that can indeed serve to help us understand a bit about divinity.

And so when we say God is “Father” we should not focus on the patriarchal word here, per se, but peer in on the wisdom of creation.  God is the creator but also, God is “beyond us.”  None of us can truly create or father (or mother) all that God has done. God is bigger, deeper, more vast than any of us can imagine.  God is beyond the limits of our merely human constructions.  So we start from a position of humbleness and say that we can never really pin God down.  There is always an element of the unknown when it comes to the divine.

But we also believe that God breaks into human history at times too, do we not?  God interacts with us.  God wants to be part of our lives.  Sometimes that is hard for us to believe and I believe that this has always been true.  In fact, it was so true that God directly intervened as “one of us” in the person of Jesus.  That makes this a whole lot clearer and easier for us to understand now, doesn’t it?  So while God is “beyond us,” God is also “with us.”

And we also believe that God is not just “alongside us” but that God is “with-in us.” I hyphenated that to show that God is both with us and in our hearts; closer to us than our own heartbeat.  We fail to understand this as well sometimes thinking that God could never wish to be part of us.  In my mind, I believe this why Jesus gave us the sacrament of the eucharist. For the times when we can’t understand that God exists in the hearts of each one of us–we literally take God and put God inside of us–through the accidents of bread and wine.  Catholics, do the hard things first, I often say.  And so if we can believe that God’s essence can unite with a simple meal, we should be able to remind ourselves that God is with us always.

So “beyond us,” “with us,” and “within us.”  This is Trinity.  This is our meager attempt to try to classify God.  It is still incomplete, because God is far bigger than our definitions, but this satisfies me as a definition.  The word “kinship” also comes to mind here.  God seeks to be in kinship with us and therefore we have many ways to interact and experience God’s love in our lives.

In what ways have you experienced God as one who is “beyond, with or within you?”

What is the Trinity?


Here’s my latest feature in BustedHalo’s Googling God section on The Trinity.

I offer some of the church’s traditional teachings on the trinity and then these more “modern” way of looking at this divine mystery:

The Trinity can be thought of in these three expressions:

God is “beyond us.”

We can never really fathom what God is, but we know that He is far beyond our limited human nature or anything we can come to know in that human experience. God is the ultimate mystery, the question that we never fully answer. This is God the Father — the creator, the one who is beyond all understanding.

God is also “among us.”
We come to know God in the person of Jesus. God takes on our human nature and becomes “one of us.” Catholics also believe that this human experience of God continues in the sacrament of the Eucharist. God the Son is among us.
God is also “within us.”

God is the “divine spark” that awakens us to the fact that we are alive. God imbues us with our creativity, our gifts and talents, and our limitations as well. As we come to know ourselves as people, we also come to know God — who knows us better than we know ourselves. This is the experience of God the Holy Spirit.

God is all these things and more. We don’t know all that God is but this is how God has been revealed to us throughout the course of our history — how we have come to best express God.

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