As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, we are being asked to reconsider what we know of the Trinity. We are asked to ponder what this means for our lives. But first, we must consider what our understanding of the Trinity actually is. For all different age groups, this means something else. And for each of us, it ought to challenge us to grow a bit in our relationship with God.
So first, what was your first understanding? Was it something you were taught by a catechist at the Parish? Was it something you could see and touch, like an egg, or a shamrock? Was it a symbol like a celtic trinity knot, or maybe the fleur-de-lis? These are all great ways of teaching youngsters and new Christians of all ages, but it certainly only goes so far. They show us things that are both three and one, but can never get us to truly know the Trinity, because that can only come from a real relationship.
The earliest Christians came to understand that God is Trinitarian through a relationship, which ultimately showed them this relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This started them thinking about all the clues God had given us about this along the way: in Genesis, God speaks of Himself acting in different ways, and even refers to himself as plural, speaks of the Son being born in Bethlehem and ruling as Messiah in through the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah, etc. These are very difficult things to make sense of until God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and was able to explain so much of this in our terms, through relationships.
But still, it wasn’t right away that people started talking about God as the Trinity. Because, of course, we never heard Jesus say something so plain as that. Over time, those first Christians came to understand what the Holy Spirit was doing in them, and came closer to God than they could have imagined after Christ returned to Heaven. And then, over the course of many years, those faithful men and women began to be able to understand this relationship they had with God, and got better at putting it into words. They started using some of the same terms we still use today, and this began to form a way for them to discuss their own relationship with God, and help one another grow in faith and grow more deeply in love with God.
This is a long way from the beginning of our own understanding of the Trinity. But we must start somewhere, and a good place to start is to really consider some of those symbols we use to teach our youngsters. To ponder how God can be a Trinity of Persons, how God can both three and one at the same time, this can help us to let go just enough to give God the reins. And once we allow God to lead our minds and hearts, our relationship can become much more than if we try to control it.
In fact, I have often wondered if the nature of God as Trinity is just so that we have to let go of trying to understand. Of course, there is much more to it than that, because that is just the beginning of a journey to a deeper relationship. My hope is that this relationship becomes deeper than any relationship you have in this life. So my prayer for you today is that you might let go enough to let God lead, and come to know God in ways that no one can put into words.