Trinity Sunday (2018)
It is a cliché almost to say, the Trinity is a mystery. To seek some understanding I looked up two words in my dictionary: mystery and trinity. ‘Mystery’, says my Collins, complete and unabridged dictionary, is ‘any truth that is divinely revealed but otherwise unknowable.’ ‘Otherwise unknowable’, not much help there. And the word ‘trinity’ is defined as, ‘the union of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one Godhead.’ That was more helpful, but I wanted to know more. And who better to ask than a child.
I was visiting one of our catholic schools, in a class of 7-8 year olds. I asked the class of about 30 children, put your hands up who can explain the trinity. Immediately, and without hesitation the whole class put their hands up. ‘Please sir, please sir’. So I asked one lad at the back with his hand up how he would explain the Trinity. He just looked at me blankly and put his hand down. So I asked the girl beside him, she said ‘God is Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, all three are God but they are one.’ Well done I said; yes, God is only one, in three persons.
I thanked her for her correct answer, but I wanted to know more. So I asked them how to describe the Holy Trinity. Again the same number of hands shot up. There was a lad sitting right at the front whose right hand was so high it was almost touching the ceiling. So, to save him from doing any damage to himself I asked how he would describe the Trinity. Delighted to be asked he replied, ‘Well, there is God the Father on the top. He’s an old man with lots of wrinkles, a bald head and a long white beard. In the middle there is the Holy Spirit, he’s some kind of white bird. Then at the bottom is Jesus, he’s like the father only younger, he has all his hair and a dark beard.’ Good, I said, trying hard to be serious, “now, who can tell me what binds the Trinity together?” Again the same number of hands. I saw one lad with a grin on his face, so I asked him, what binds the Trinity together. “Glue” he said, and everyone laughed.
I wasn’t really making myself understood, so I put my question another way: “what is the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”? I asked a girl in the front who said, ‘love.’… Yes, love. The way the Trinity relates is by love, they love each other equally.
God, the Trinity, remains a mystery which I cannot explain, but I do know something about love, we all do. But do we love each other equally? Isn’t our love for each other often one sided, where we give more than we receive. Often, I think it is true to say, a mother’s love is one sided; in other words, she will sometimes give up things for the sake of her children. I look back on my own teenage years and I blush with embarrassment. I would come home from school expecting my tea to be ready and the ironing to be done, so I could wear my best shirt when I was going out that night. This was my mother’s one-sided love. She loved me and my siblings, and did it for us out of love.
When we love like the Holy Trinity, as we are called to love generously; so I should have got home before mum, having bought flowers on the way, done the ironing and put dinner in the oven. Sadly no way. We are called to love like the Trinity.
Yes, it is true we don’t understand the mystery of the Trinity, but we do understand love. It is, however, something we live imperfectly, we are called to live it well. God is love. The Trinity is love, where the three persons love each other equally. The Trinity is our model. We are called to love in the same way, equally. What a beautiful world it would be if we could only try to love more.