(By Fr. Dexter Brereton)
Our human connectedness – a reflection of the Triune God.
At the centre of Christian reflection today is the doctrine of the Most Blessed Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is the answer to a question: “When you say ‘God’, what do you mean?” It is thus, the human attempt to name the mystery at the heart of Christian experience. One of my theology professors, the late great Fr Henry J. Charles supposedly said once: “Every idea we have of God is an idol”, in other words, all human attempts at articulating our experience of God at some point falls short and falls flat. As another of my late great professors, Sr Diane Jagdeo always reminded us, “language limps behind reality.” In spite of our human inadequacy, the Christian tradition continues down the centuries to explain to others what it knows of God. The self-disclosure of the God who ‘dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16) is not so locked up in secrecy that it can say nothing of itself. We firmly believe as Christians, that this God who reveals himself, wants, in some sense, to be known by us and to enter into a deep relationship with men and women.
The doctrine of the Trinity ultimately rests upon scriptural foundations. While sacred scripture does not use the term “Trinity” in either Old or New Testament, what we find recorded there is an experience of God that is evolving, deepening and increasingly multifaceted. The God of the Old Testament was irrevocably ONE: As we read in this primary creed recited by all pious Jews taken from Deuteronomy 6: 5 Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your, heart, all your soul, with all your strength. In spite of Israel’s central conviction of the oneness of God, scriptural authors were not unaccustomed giving praise to God operations in nature, God’s attributes such as Wisdom, so much so that they are actually ‘personified’ as in this passage from today’s first reading which speaks of wisdom:
The Lord created me when his purpose first unfolded,
Before the oldest of his works.
From everlasting I was firmly set,
From the beginning, before earth came into being.
Much of this Old Testament language in praise of God’s Wisdom, God’s Word and even God’s Spirit will be taken up by Christian theologians and used in their development of Trinitarian doctrine.
With the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, revelation reaches a new stage. The Pauline letters, the oldest documents in the New Testament illustrate something very striking, that very early on, Christians felt themselves under obligation to worship Jesus, without ceasing to be Jewish monothesists. Thus it was that Jesus began to appear in statements about God, alongside God the Father. The Church’s sense of the ‘three-ness’ in God will be fully endorsed and explained after the controversies of the third and fourth centuries and became enshrined in the creed which explains the Church’s faith.
Today’s Gospel passage speaks of the Holy Spirit. Of him Jesus says: “He will glorify me since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.” As we reflect on that statement we remember that many times in life, we know one person, one human being through another, because of their deep connection, because of their resemblance. People who never knew my own dad who died over a decade ago can get a good sense of him by looking at me. Why? Because “all I tell you is taken from what was his” in other words, I bear within myself his legacy, the marks of the upbringing that he gave me, the habits and personality traits that I inherited from him. People can know dad through looking at me. So with us all. We carry in us, in our very being, all our ancestors.
Another more poetic way of explaining this mystery at the heart of the Trinity may be seen in this little story of the late Louise Bennet, a Jamaican dramatist. Having spent most of her life abroad, she was once asked if she did not miss her homeland. To this Ms Bennett replied : ‘ Not so much…wherever I am, Jamaica is’. She carried her entire people within her.
Today, as we celebrate the mystery of the Triune God, let us celebrate as well the mystery of human connectedness which is a mirror of the connectedness of the three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We thank God for all those ancestors who went before us, and who we carry within us, since “all we tell others is taken from what is theirs.”