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The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Relationship Trumps Reason

by Alice Camille

Scripture scholars have called this section of John’s gospel one of the clearest New Testament passages about God as Trinity in unity. If that’s true, it only goes to show how oblique the other passages are. Most of us feel a haze fall over our brains at the mere mention of the Trinity. In the gospels, Jesus never actually uses the term or anything like it. He is never quoted as saying he’s part of a triune existence that continually expresses itself as Father, Son, and Spirit, or Creator-Redeemer-Sanctifier, or Love-Beloved-and-Love-Itself, as theologians have variously described the vital community of the Divine.

So what exactly is made clear in this discourse from John? The idea that Jesus is vitally connected to God and to the Spirit of truth, and that these relationships (or this relationship?) are/is very real to him. More real, I dare say, than my sense of connection with God, Jesus, or the Spirit on the average day. Or perhaps yours. Too often, these names are more like concepts to me than relationships. Relationships are what I have with my mom, sibs, friends, and coworkers. What I share with the triune nature of God is frequently an abstract litany of right answers I memorized back in school. The Trinity is more object than subject to many of us, in other words. We bow to the concept, but we rarely cozy up the Holy Presence behind it all.

Rational thought may lead us to God the Almighty concept. Aquinas was convinced it could, until late in life when he celebrated the Eucharist, had a profound experience of Holy Presence, and didn’t want to write about it anymore. Learned as he was, words failed him. Relationship trumps reason, it seems, and only relationship will bring us into the intimacy that Jesus experiences in connection to the One he calls Father and Spirit.

What does it mean to say that Jesus is essentially and profoundly united with a Vitality recognizable to him as Father and Spirit? “The Father and I are one,” Jesus says elsewhere in this discourse. Nothing could be clearer, or more mysterious, than this statement of what we call “consubstantial.” When we see Jesus we see the Father: in the crèche, on the cross, as the Risen One. When we sense the indwelling Spirit, we’re in touch with the life of God, the presence of Jesus who promised to be with us until the end of the age. So God is born and God suffers and dies. God is in the Eucharist, and God moves through our inspired thoughts and actions.

If Trinity is more about relationship than concept, then we’re invited to embrace the reality (not the idea) that God-Savior-Spirit is truly Emmanuel, “with us.” If we feel like strangers, then it’s time to work on the relationship—not the theology.

05 – May 22, 2016



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