Every Sunday is a celebration of the Church’s fundamental message, namely that Jesus is risen from the dead. And this Sunday the Church reminds us that to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus is to celebrate an act of the triune God, the Most Holy Trinity, as today’s feast is called in the liturgical books. It is an annual reminder that every celebration of the paschal mystery is also a celebration of the Blessed Trinity. And it is a reminder that the Christian understanding of God is not based on philosophy or psychology, but on God’s self-revelation in the bible, as we heard in the readings this morning.
In the book of Exodus, God reveals himself as personal: “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”. If we think this kind of personal language is fine for human beings but not for the Supreme Being, then we do not know the biblical God, who is not an abstraction or the conclusion of a process of reasoning. As Blaise Pascal famously said, the biblical God is “not the God of the philosophers, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.
The Christian cannot talk about God without talking about how “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” and “sent his Son into the world”, into a two-parent family, with a human body, and formed by the Jewish culture of first-century Palestine. We must understand the paschal mystery, precisely as Jesus’ human doings and sufferings, as a part of God’s triune life, the event in God that settles what sort of God he is over against fallen creation.
Just as we may say that in Mary, God has a mother, so we can say that in Jesus, God has a body, the body born of Mary, risen from the dead, and passing into the Church and the sacraments, the body which we will be receiving at this Eucharist.
It was Jesus in his risen body who appeared to St Paul. And so Paul can pray as he does in the second reading this morning: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship [or ‘communion’] of the Holy Spirit be with all of you”. It would be too much to say that this is already a clear statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, because it says nothing about the relations of Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. But it is based on the historical fact of the revelation of God in Christ, and on the experience of the divine life which the Church has through the Spirit.
Here again, the doctrine of the Trinity is not the result of Greek philosophical speculation. It stands in relation both to the historical Jesus and to the experience of the Church.
Even the order of St Paul’s words suggests that he was not so much writing about a doctrine as reflecting on an experience which he had: first, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”; then, “the love of God”; and then “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”. St Paul only came to know God as love through “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”. It is the grace of the historical Christ which reveals God’s love and assures us of it through the Spirit – we only know that God loves St Paul and each of us personally because of the grace of Christ. “No one comes to the Father except through Me”, Jesus said.
The immensity of that Triune love, the breadth and length and depth and height of it, surpasses all our understanding. It is the Son who revealed that love in history, and God who is its eternal Source, and the Spirit through Whom it lives in us. May the love of this Triune God, in all its workings and in all its power, be with all of us. Amen.
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