Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Feast of the Holy Trinity: 7 June 2009
(Isaiah 6:1-8/Psalm 29/Romans 8:12-17/John 3:1-17)
We believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Following is an abstract of the sermon for The Feast of the Holy Trinity. More complete notes are available upon request by email.)

O blessed Trinity,
in whom we know the Creator of all things seen and unseen,
the Savior of all both near and far,
the Seal and Guarantor of our inheritance:
By your Spirit enable us to worship your divine majesty,
that with all the company of heaven
we may magnify your glorious name, saying:
Holy, holy holy is the Lord of hosts,
the whole earth is full of God’s glory.
Glory to you, O Lord most high.

So begins our liturgy on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Trinity from which our church receives its name. It is a glorious day, but also a day which presents a great challenge to all ministers: how to speak of homoousios and homoiousios, hypostases and personhood, creeds and councils, Athanasius and Arius without glazing over the eyes of every congregant within earshot; how to verbalize that which is beyond language; how to explain that which is beyond human comprehension. And yet we try, for the Trinity – God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is the essential center of our faith, as the Athanasian Creed (ca 5th -6th centuries) professes.

WHOSOEVER WILL BE SAVED, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

So, on alternate years it seems – and sometimes within the same sermon – we treat the Trinity as either an abstract theological puzzle to be solved with precise definitions, logical arguments, and clever analogies or else as a transrational doctrine that cannot be understood and that must be embraced by faith alone -- “I do not understand, yet I believe.” Having tried both approaches – on alternate years and within the same sermon – I now see the inadequacy of each. Quite simply, the Trinity is neither an intellectual problem nor a transrational doctrine. Rather, the Trinity is a description of ultimate Reality as revealed to and experienced by the apostles and the church. Further, the Trinity is a Life to be lived by all God’s people, an abiding presence of God that makes us partakers of the divine nature (2 Pe 1:1-4) and that, through God’s presence, draws us into the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit evermore (cf 2 Cor 13:14). The Trinity is not an ancient, abstract dogma; the Trinity is the ongoing life of the church.

The Trinity reveals the God in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), the God who is the very ground and source of being, as our Father – a Father who through his providence provides all things necessary for our life and for our salvation, a Father who is best described as love and who loves prodigally.

The Trinity reveals the God who is, in his essence, always other than his creation, as the Son incarnate, as the Son who unites his divinity with our humanity that we might be healed (cf Is 53), as the divine Son who became man that men may, by grace, become divine sons (Rom 8:14-17).

The Trinity reveals the God who is, by nature, transcendent as the immanent and indwelling Holy Spirit, as the seal of our redemption who incorporates us into the divine life (cf John 14:15-21), who equips us for ministry (Eph 4:7-16), who prays in and through and for us (Rom 8:26).

The Trinity is neither an intellectual problem to be solved nor a transrational doctrine blindly to be embraced. The Trinity is nothing less than the very life of the church: created and sustained by God the Father, redeemed and healed by God the Son, sealed and incorporated into the divine life by God the Holy Spirit.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that, as Christians, we have not said God until we have said Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to whom belongs all glory, honor, might, greatness and magnificence, now and for ever.

And so, our liturgy on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, ends with the benediction:

Praise be to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
the Three in One, the One in Three,
of whom all nature has creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of our salvation:
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with you all evermore.


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