Saturday, June 3, 2023

In the embrace of the Trinity: Homily for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity 2023


The Most Holy Trinity, Karel Škréta (1610 - 1674) church of Svatého Tomáše, Prague.

My dear brothers and sisters, Happy feast of the Holy Trinity!

The readings of this great feast inform us quite clearly that the nature of God was revealed to us.

And this is where we need to pause and reflect. A revelation is about being permitted to know something that we did not already know, could not possibly know, or cannot, or must not, know. This understanding of what revelation is allows us to appreciate certain facts.

The first, is that the revelation permits us to know something that we could not possibly know; i.e. we now know something, i.e. that nature of God, that relying purely on our senses and intellect we could not possibly know. Revelation reveals to us the limits of the human intellect. This, revelation, should be a lesson for those of us who take too much pride in our intellect, or rely solely on our intellect to establish our relationship with God. Those of you who are clever will realise I am making a reference to the same body-mind problem that I have been referring to over the past few Sundays. Man is not simply mind, he is body too, and we need to recognise the limits of the human mind and of pure, abstract, reason.

From the appreciation of revelation that gives us access to something we cannot, or must not, know we appreciate the nature of the gift, or the grace of God, who reveals to us His nature. We would have been lost in darkness, lost in idolatry, and worshiping false gods if we did not have His revelation about His nature.

And what is His nature? The first insight we are given is available in the first reading, in the encounter between Moses and God, where God reveals to Moses the nature of the divine. And it is this, He is:

a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.

Like the prophets before him, and indeed after him, Moses is quick to seize the moment and plead for mankind, when he says:

"If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own."

And how does God respond to this request? He does come along in our company, first with the Israelites in the pillar of fire, then in the Ark of the Covenant, then more substantially as the Son, and subsequently as the Holy Spirit. We remain, however, a stiff-necked people, unwilling to bow and genuflect before Him, filled with wickedness and sin, and yet, He continues to receive us as His own.

What proof do we have that he received us as His own? We receive the answer in the Gospel for the day:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.

That we might have eternal life. God’s response to Moses’ request is not simply to be with us here on earth, but to draw us to Himself and live with Him eternally.

I would like to take a little detour at this point and introduce you to the term perichoresis. This tiny, technical, theological, term refers to the inner life of the Holy Trinity, to the relationship of love that binds the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a tight love this perichoresis, and yet it is not tight enough that it will not admit us, weak and sinful as we are, into its love. We are invited to participate in God’s love.

We are constantly told that God is love. Indeed, so often has it been repeated, that it has become a commonplace idea, that even non-Christians, whose deities are not necessarily loving, believe that God is love. But how do we know this as a fact? Because it was revealed to us.

God, revealed His nature to Moses as concepts, and then He revealed the extent of His love by giving us His only Son, who took on human flesh, so that we, despite our sinful natures, may be saved. As the gospel teaches us today:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

And how was the world saved through Him? It was through His taking on human flesh, and His giving us His flesh, that we can be admitted into this divine love and relationship of the Most Holy Trinity. Inspired by the Spirit, our natures changed by ingesting His body, we can now act differently from what our fallen nature constantly urges us to do – that is, to sin.

And so, brothers and sisters, I make the words of the apostle Saint Paul my own, as I urge you:

Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

We are blessed my dear brothers and sisters to have been given an insight into the nature of God. A God who is love, who is triune, yet so in love are the three persons of God that they are One. We are blessed to have been invited to participate in this love, and we reject this love only at the great cost of not being able to live forever in their tight loving embrace. And we are blessed, because through the Eucharist, the gift of the spirit, the prayers of the saints, we are enabled to participate in this love.

Let us give glory then, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
to God who is, who was, and who is to come.


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