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Hallo again to all.

It is fashionable on Trinity Sunday for sermons to include the idea that all the great feasts of the Church's liturgical year (except today) are about great events or great individuals. Thus—limiting ourselves only to the old Red Letter Days of the Book of Common Prayer—we have, for example, the celebration of mighty events in the history of God's people: Christmas for the Nativity, Easter for the Resurrection, Pentecost for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Ascension for the Ascension, and the like. And still in rubricated days, we have great feasts dedicated to the lives of holy women and men from scripture: St Mary, St John Baptist, St Peter, St James, St Bartholomew, St Luke, St Andrew, St Thomas and the like.

According to this line of thinking, this holyday is different from all the other holydays because it is not about an event or a saint, but rather about a doctrine: namely, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This is true as far as it goes, but, in the words of a dear priest friend, 'for most congregations this ends up meaning that they spend a Sunday every year worshiping a diagram and singing St Patrick's Breastplate'.

We submit tonight that Trinity Sunday is not in the end best understood as the celebration of a doctrine—as fully as we receive that doctrine in our own belief and in our regular worship.

Trinity Sunday is rather about Persons than doctrines, and much more about Love than diagrams. In putting before our minds the fullness of what the Church has understood about God's self-revelation in the world, this Sunday is better envisioned as an awe-filled asymptote than a tidy box into which to file away what the old BCP catechism called

God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world.
God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.
God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the people of God.

If, after a day of Trinity Sunday worship we find ourselves thinking we understand God more precisely, we have missed the point of it all entirely and are in fact the poorer.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is a mystery of Love among Persons—capitalised because perfect. It is the icon of God's love for the world, with the world, in the world. It is—and here we follow the most traditional writers of the Christian East and West—the sign of intimate, real mutuality within the Godhead through which we learn how we can ourselves best live, and how our communities, especially within the sacramental life of the Church, can show forth and embody the same love.*

If we allow our hearts and eyes to tune themselves to the music of the Trinity, we will see those Three Persons alive in every enlivened part of God's gifts to us in this transitory life:

At the bed of a friend whose cancer has returned, where transdermal Fentanyl patches and good souls do their best to alleviate her suffering. In her body, created by God; in her suffering, transformed by God; in her very breath, breathed in and from and with the breath of God. The Trinity is in and with her soul, and at her bed.

In the forming words and toddling steps of a child very dear to us. Her discovery of the created world seems itself a proof of its creation by a good and loving God; we marvel that God has known her tears and smiles as a child himself; and in the light of her eyes we cannot but see the infusion of divine love. In her crib, the Trinity dwells as surely as it does in the heavens.

In the empty rooms where a parent lived and prayed and died. God's presence is palpable in each now-quiet room: in the kitchen where meals once brought strength and health from the created world to the plate; in the bedrooms which became like the tomb where Christ himself slept; in the study where inspired books formed the substance of a long Christian life, and the Holy Spirit breathed through page after page of loving letters to a son. Even here, in a place of death and dust and shadows, the Trinity shines forth to tell the story of God's creation, redemption, sanctification.

Persons and Love, in godly order, in perfection, in their holy if ever-inscrutable arrangements: these are the outward and visible signs of the life of God the Three in One and One in Three, and they cannot be reduced to formulae or footnotes.

See you next week. Until then, find the Trinity where you can—and hopefully outside the diagram.

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26 May 2013

* St Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, is bold to say: 'If, as is properly understood, the Father is he who kisses, the Son he who is kissed, then it cannot be wrong to see in the kiss the Holy Spirit, for he is the imperturbable peace of the Father and the Son, their unshakable bond, their undivided love, their indivisible unity.' (Sermons on the Song of Songs, VIII).

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