I called my brief essay, "The Trinity and Being Church". Your feedback is, as always, very welcome.
A mystery the Trinity surely is, and I won’t here pretend that I comprehend this mystery fully. ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly,’ as St Paul reminds us (1 Cor 13:12). But our ancestors in the faith didn’t formulate the doctrine of the Trinity because they wanted to be intentionally difficult, as if they wanted to play a grand theological joke for posterity. Rather, the doctrine of the Trinity formed out of concrete experiences of the Divine, experiences that shaped the kind of language our ancestors used to express their understanding of God.
And over the centuries great theologians like Augustine, Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, and Thérèse of Liseaux have endeavored to come to terms with the implications of God’s triune existence not only for our understanding of God and our relationship with God, but for our understanding of how we are to exist one with another.
This is what it means to believe that, as St. John says in his first epistle, ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8). God exists as love. God, in God’s very essence, exists and has always existed as an eternal community of love, and it is God’s very existence as eternally loving that explains why the created order came to be, and particularly, why God gave the gift of God’s very self to us in the Incarnation, when God became human. We know that God exists as love because that is how God lived on earth. Jesus’ example of a totally generous and self-giving love, a love that led him to the cross, reveals to us that love is at the heart of who God is.
This understanding of God as a community as generous love is vitally important for understanding how we are to relate to others, both within the church and outside the church.
The Trinity, I want to suggest, not only shows what it means to say God is love. The Trinity also provides an icon that vividly shows us how we are to live in community. If God in God’s essence exists in community, and if we are created in the image and likeness of God, then we too are created to exist in community with one another. We were not created to live lives of isolation, focused solely on our own well-being to the neglect of the welfare of others. We were created for one another, to exist relationally just as God exists relationally. We are, in other words, most fully ourselves, most fully human, when we exist in the kind of community that God is as Trinity.
I don't, however, want to speak here only in terms of abstracts, for there are concrete implications that should be spelled out. A church that imitates God's Trinitarian life is a church characterized by unity in multiplicity, in which people of various life experiences, perspectives, and temperaments love and embrace one another regardless of the differences that may exist. It is a church in which each person becomes fully known by the others, in which each person - including our bishops and priests - makes themselves fully open to becoming known, in which each person is willing to be totally vulnerable and open.
It is a church in which persons knows their own and each other's strengths and weaknesses, joys and hardships, character qualities as well as character foibles, and is fully - fully - embraced and accepted and helped and cherished and loved as they are. It is a church of radical equality in which, regardless of wealth, expertise, abilities, gender, sexual orientation, or race, each person is understood to be absolutely pivotal to the community's life.
May God grant us the grace to become and exist as the Love that God is essentially.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.