Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Trinity

To be honest, the Trinity is not something I’ve thought a lot about. Making the sign of the cross is about as Trinitarian as my thinking gets. It’s not that I had a problem with the Trinity. I think I just put it in the too hard basket. The Trinity is a hard concept to get your head around. It’s easy to say I believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the one Godhead. It’s a bit harder to understand how that actually works or what it means.

And I think, honestly, how it ‘works’ may almost be a bit beyond us. We’re too likely to think of it in human terms. In ‘The Shack’, the members of the Trinity were presented as three different characters, in human form. It was one of the reasons why I didn’t like ‘The Shack’. Although we can think of Jesus as a human, the Father and the Holy Spirit are not. We can’t imagine three different human people sitting up in Heaven and having tea together. Somehow one, but somehow different. And yet if we do not think of them in human terms, how do we think of them?

I like to visualise things. I also like to use metaphors. But when it comes to God, our imagery and metaphors will never be completely adequate. We are using earthly concepts to describe Heavenly realities. That’s a bit like trying to describe colours to someone who has been blind from birth. Nothing on earth, nothing in our understanding, can fully explain God.

But when it comes to the Trinity, I can’t even think of a metaphor. I know that people in the past have used things from earth to try and describe the Trinity. St Patrick’s three-leaf clover for example or Augustine’s idea of the human mind as the Trinity, divided into memory, intellect and will. However, these metaphors don’t really get me any closer to understanding it. They can point towards the reality, but they don’t really explain it in any meaningful way.

One approach that does help me get a little bit closer to appreciating the Trinity is to split it up into three distinct persons and imagine what they would be like in isolation, separated from the Trinity. God the Father may be seen as a very distant God, unconcerned with the world. Jesus may be seen simply as a prophet, providing us with a good moral example. The Holy Spirit may be seen as a warm, fuzzy spirituality and that’s about it.

But it is when we see all three as part of the one Godhead that we can better appreciate who God is. Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not stand alone, even though we might think of them occasionally as if they did. God the Father is not just an absent God, but he sent his Son to reconcile us to Him and he sends the Holy Spirit to work in the world today. Jesus was not just a prophet, but God, sent by the Father to redeem us. The Holy Spirit is not just a disconnected spirituality, but a real person, sent by the Father and the Son to accomplish their purposes.

I still cannot visualise it. I still can’t point to anything in the world and say the Trinity is like that. But to think about how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all part of the one Godhead, relating to each other and connected to each other, helps me better appreciate each one. It is also by reflecting on all three persons of the Trinity that I better appreciate who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.

(Image details: Holy Trinity. The Icon from the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe from the village of Borodava near Ferapontov Monastery. 16th century. From Wikimedia Commons.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I’m back again. It seems my big break may not be such of a big break after all.

I have just spent the last two days at a residential school for my Introduction to Theology unit. During that residential, we were asked to spend 20 minutes reflecting on a passage in Migliore’s Faith Seeking Understanding. Then we had to share our reflections with the group. People seemed to like what I shared, so my first reason for returning to this blog is to post that reflection on here.

Afterwards, the lecturer mentioned that doing reflections like this can be very beneficial. It helps us to see what we react against and question why we react in that way. I reacted against a few things during the residential. So I thought it would be good for me to spend some time writing and reflecting about those things. It would also be useful to use my blog more to write about my learning, the readings and any essays. One of the reasons I decided to stop writing the blog was because I decided I didn’t have the time with all the uni work I have to do. But my blog can help me in my university studies.

Anyway, here is the reflection. I only had 20 minutes, and that was writing by hand. So it’s not particularly well structured or written. But I have kept it exactly as I originally wrote it, rather than changing it.

Sometimes Christianity can be a bit like sitting in a cupboard saying God make me brighter. It is better to be a flickering flame out in the world, sharing my light, than a very bright torch, sitting in a cupboard where no-one benefits from the light.

To live an individualistic faith, where we are only concerned about what God is doing for me and what God means to me is to never really change. We are by nature selfish people. Yet we are also unfulfilled people. There is a yearning inside us that tells us there should be something more.

But it is in losing ourselves that we truly do find ourselves. When we help others, we often forget about our own worries. To join with people for a greater cause not only reminds us of how insignificant our own problems may actually be, but it takes us beyond them. We see them from a different perspective.

Today’s world often tells us that we find happiness by concentrating on our needs, our desires, our wants. Maybe it can give us a shallow temporary happiness, but never true joy. Because true joy comes not from focusing on ourselves, but on taking the focus off ourselves.

The most wonderful moments in life are not those when we were thinking about ourselves, but those when we forget about ourselves.

Although it’s not related to service, we may forget about ourselves in a piece of beautiful music, for example. Maybe Christianity, at its best, is when we lose ourselves in the beautiful music of God’s purposes.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Looks like I'm not waiting until June to do a post after all. I couldn't let Good Friday go past without doing at least something.


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