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Hallo again to all.

Today is Trinity Sunday for our Communion and for most Western Christian rites. We have sometimes heard the day jokingly referred to as 'Heresy Sunday' because of how easy it is to trip over some sort of Trinitarian heresy in a sermon. Articulating three divine persons, who are somehow also still one being, is not easy—to engage in a bit of understatement. The litany of names attributed to heretical beliefs about the Trinity from the early church abound: Arianism, monothelitism, monophysitism, Sabellianism, and the list goes on, encapsulating the names and beliefs of leaders who somehow fell outside of the bounds of the orthodox. scutum fidei, c. 1210 manuscript of Peter of Poitiers

Even the much beloved St. Patrick is not immune to this anxiety in the era of the meme. A conservative Lutheran satire site made (internet) famous the phrase 'That's modalism, Patrick!'. We still like the apocryphal story of St. Patrick's analogy of the shamrock and the Trinity, even if one could find a Christological heresy if it is taken too far. It seems, given the plethora of descriptions the early church had for the Trinity, that it is most easy to do. One might even get it named after oneself, were one unlucky.

Christians clearly like words about the Trinity. They are baked into our liturgy every Sunday, and they are more elaborated still in some parishes that use the Athanasian Creed for Trinity Sunday. Even fidget spinners—the tri-wheeled spinners that have become a much-kvetched-about method of attention control for children—have tried to get in on the act once someone realized such spinners look a bit like the scutum fidei.

We have no desire to segue into a Trinity Sunday sermon, nor yet to complain about the next utterly normal toy trend that somehow provokes comment from everyone—as if the hula hoop had never been invented. What strikes us about all of this is how foreign the climate of Christological and Trinitarian debate seems when our points of discord as Christians seem to fall so often on social or political matters in the modern world. It has been a while since we felt a need to pillory an opponent as a Sabellian.

Yet we find some concordance, too. Arius supposedly made popular his teachings through a mixture of verse and prose called the Thalia (a 'festival' or 'good cheer') that was both clear and catchy. Our creeds respond with lawyerly precision and Rublev, Icon of the Trinity (15th century) repetition on so highly important a point. No room for rhymes when the nature of the church is at stake. And in this, we certainly see some echoes in the debates that have roiled our beloved Communion in the past decades. Rhetorical point and counter point, trying ultimately to define the undefinable, to pin down how God relates to humanity.

So perhaps we ought not to find the Trinitarian controversy so foreign, and ought to be more forgiving of bad analogies trying to describe it, just we as might be more tolerant of someone deploying perichoresis ('rotation') in an attempt, however academic, to describe the Trinity with precision. Regardless of what happens, at some point in our liturgy, we will all join in the words of the Creeds and try to re-articulate the mystery of the Three in One and One in Three.

So we forgo the appeal to our readers for the 'worst' example explaining the Trinity you have heard on Trinity Sunday, and instead beg a moment of charity for all the harried priest, deacons, and bishops who feel a need to express the inexpressible. May they remember that the best sermons are about the Gospel, and about ten minutes.

See you again next week.

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11 June 2017

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