Today is the feast of the Blessed Trinity. The Bible does not use the word Trinity to describe God. Trinity is a word coined in the third century by a man who later left the Church. We might be better off if the word had never been thought of. It puts us in danger of believing in the word itself rather than in the awesome mystery behind the word. A mystery is a truth we cannot fully comprehend, but the Trinity is a mystery we should comprehend as fully as possible.
The catechism defined the Trinity as “The mystery of One God in three divine Persons.” Too often we make the fatal mistake of ignoring the part about there being only one God. We go off speaking of Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit as quite distinct individuals. Holding tight to the belief that there is one God, let’s go on to absorb as much as possible about this mystery.
The Bible only once links the three persons in so many words. That came with the final words of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus told his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Epistles say something about the relationship of the Son to the Father. St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians says the Son is “the image of the invisible God.” The Letter to the Hebrews says, “He is the imprint of his being.” In the first chapter of his Gospel John wrote that the Son, or the Word “was with God, and was God.”
It is only in his later chapters that John spoke of the relationship of the first two Persons to the Spirit. In 14:16-17 he wrote, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.”
Some fourth century Greeks had done deep thinking about the Trinity, but it was all Greek to me until I heard that a wealthy lady had brought them together to dig for God in the Scriptures. That caught my attention because it made me think of Lady Gregory a wealthy nineteenth century Irish woman who brought together all Ireland’s great writers: Yeats, O’Casey, Synge, Becket. She fed them while they dug into Irish folklore for their great themes. (I saw the tree in Galway on which they had carved their names.)
Around the year 370 A.D. a holy woman named Makrina made a home for her two brothers who would become bishops and saints. They were Gregory and Basil, and they had a friend Gregory who would also be a saint and a bishop. Taking all of the Scriptures into account, eating Makrina’s food, they operated a wonderful think-tank. What they kept coming back to was that line from the First Epistle of John where John wrote, “God is love.”
Knowing that God is beyond human understanding, they still thought God wanted us to have some appreciation of him. So, they came up with a simple image. The Greeks were fond of a three-person dance in which the three held hands while circling. The Greek name for such a circle-dance was Perachoresus. We can think of the Trinity as an endless dance of love.