To you all,
It is Trinity Sunday. I know this may sound ridiculous but Trinity Sunday always feels to me like the year’s belly button. It’s the centre, the core, the axis round which everything else turns. The doctrine of the Trinity ties everything together: three Persons in one Substance, and all of us into the ever-encircling love of God. It’s a binding, a beautiful knot, like the love knots running rampant through so much Celtic imagery. And it is inscribed on each and every one of us.
Indulge in a bit of navel gazing today: reflecting that we are all of us bound together in the love of one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I am very grateful to Gerald Osborne for the following reflection.
God bless you all,
Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre has released an onstage interview with Judi Dench to help fund itself during the Covid crisis. Dench found that this theatre in the round brought back memories of doing Macbeth with Ian McKellen, where she was intimidated by having the audience on three sides. She pretended she was playing only to the Holy Trinity, and told McKellen: “I imagine the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost in three different seats.” McKellen looked at her and said: “They only need one seat.”
This vignette from The Times recently in many ways sums up the preacher’s dilemma on Trinity Sunday. But rather than trying to explain the Trinity, it can be more helpful to come to it from our own experience and prayer.
“In the beginning God..”: so starts the book of Genesis with the story of creation, and it is in creation that many people first have an experience of the divine, the wonder of nature pointing us towards something far greater and more powerful than ourselves.
“In the beginning was the word…”: so begins the gospel of St John, describing Christ, the creator becoming part of his creation, part of history in time and space, but now ascended to the heavenly dimension, so he is close to us wherever we are.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.Genesis 1:1-2
So the first chapter of Genesis continues, God’s Spirit there at the beginning of creation. And at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God’s Spirit now in that most extraordinary place: within you and me.
God surrounding us, God beside us, and God within us: each an experience of the Trinity.
Over the years I have found the Rublev icon of the Trinity an invaluable aid in coming to the Trinity in prayer. Also called The Hospitality of Abraham, it is based on a story in Genesis chapter eighteen:
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the ehat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.Genesis 18:1-2
Traditionally read as the first revelation of the Trinity in the bible, Rublev depicts the scene in a way that allows for deep reflection and meditation. Your eye is immediately drawn to the three angels at the centre of the picture; if you look carefully behind them you can see a house, a tree and a mountain.
There is no clear explanation as to what these symbols mean, allowing us to dwell on their richness. The house might make us think of God dwelling on earth, the tree as the tree of life and creation, the mountain as Jerusalem, or any of the other high places or holy mountains in the bible.
It is striking how similar the three visitors are in appearance, suggesting an equality between the three persons, and leaving us to meditate on which one might be representing Father, which the Son and which Holy Spirit.
Looking more closely you can see their eyes meeting, as if in deep conversation, and the posture of their bodies forms a sort of circle which dominates the painting. A circle that draws us towards the heart of God, that dynamic circle of love, of endless communion, power and creativity at the heart of the universe on which and from which we all have our being.
And you then begin to notice there is one empty space around the table and we are invited to sit there, joining in that eternal conversation, that circle of love, power and creativity, and as we do so we realise: this – at heart – is what prayer is all about: being drawn closer and closer to God.
For it is by the Spirit, God within each of us, that we have that invitation to the heavenly banquet, and to be daily energised by that holy communion at the centre of all being.
Canon Gerald Osborne
And since today we’re thinking in threes and ones, here is one track called In 3’s by the mighty and mightily missed Beastie Boys, all three of them.
transcendent God beyond being,
by whom and for whom we are made,
hidden by a dazzling darkness
but revealed in Your
our Redeemer, the Being of all beings
the Word through which the world was made,
who came to live among us, opened the gate of glory,
and promised Your
Spirit of Love,
immanent God in whom we have our being:
restore in us the image in which we were made,
invite us to the table, inspire us through the scriptures,
draw us deeper and deeper into relationship with you:
Loving Father, Beloved Son, Spirit of Love,
and on and on forever and ever.