What is the Holy Trinity? I have no idea. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “the whole thing [is] incomprehensible.”
No doubt many sermons will be preached tomorrow where ministers, pastors, and priests will try desperately to make it all make sense (some verging on “heresy”). But somehow I don’t think it is supposed to make sense. The sheer mathematics defy human logic: 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. Say what?
Perhaps the best way I’ve learned to describe God as Holy Trinity is “mystery.” To some that may be a cop-out, but I see it as a challenge. Mystery isn’t a way to end the conversation, but a point of departure to deepen it. God as mystery is God as wind and flame, blowing here and there, unable to characterized and refusing even to be named, referring to God’s self simply as “I Am.” In a world where it can be so easy to reduce everything to settled formula and logic, God as Trinity defies all human ability to try to pin God down.
However, God as mystery doesn’t do enough for my spirituality. It frames God as allusive and removed. Maybe that’s how some people prefer God – out there and uninvolved. God “up there” doesn’t threaten our little idols that we may have constructed down here. I have come to see that, while there are dimensions to God that are removed and transcendent, the God that is revealed to us through scripture is a God that very much wants to be involved. In fact, God invites us over and over, time after time, to be in relationship with God.
As much as the Holy Trinity is mystery, the Holy Trinity is also invitation to relationship. This might be best shown in Andrei Rublev’s “Trinity” icon:
There is much that is communicated by this icon: the relationship between the persons of the Trinity and even the identity of the three angels. All icons play with dimensions to draw the prayerful viewer into the scene that it depicts. The subjects are present and, as far as the iconographer is concerned, the scene is happening now. This particular icon depicts that story from Genesis 18 where Abraham is visited by three angels at the Oaks of Mamre. In typical near-eastern fashion, he lays out a sumptuous feast for his guests. Christian theologians came to see this encounter between Abraham and the three angels as foreshadowing the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
What has always drawn me into this icon is the space that is created in the front of the table. The Father (red and blue), the Son (blue and green), and the Holy Spirit (blue and gold) are seated on three sides of the table leaving the fourth open for the prayerful viewer to enter. This leads me to believe that whatever else the Holy Trinity might be, it is an invitation to relationship and communion.
In this way, God as Holy Trinity isn’t simply unknowable mystery, but divine mystery that invites us in. The love that binds together the persons of the Trinity is a love that we are invited to partake in and to share with others.
God is holy family and divine communion, eternal love that invites in.
Maybe the Eucharist, in a very real sense, is a feast that invites each of us, reborn by water and the Spirit, to commune with God even as God communes with God’s self. We’re invited into a love affair that dispels the darkness and division of our world. Through Christ we are invited to “come on in where the table is spread and the feast of the Lord is going on.”
The Holy Trinity may be a lot of things, and God may be “incomprehensible,” but as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad I don’t have to have it all figured out to join the party. I just have to come hungry and ready to dance.