June 3, 2012
Deut 4: 32-34, 39-40
Rom 8: 14-17
Matt 28: 16-20
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.
“God our Father, who made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant that in professing the true faith we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity” (Collect).
According to many theologians, the Trinity is the most fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. Others might say that the Incarnation is the most fundamental, or our Redemption thru the death and resurrection of Christ. Certainly it’s the Trinity that distinguishes Christians from other believers in the one eternal God—from Jews and Moslems, and nowadays it might be apropos to add, from Mormons.
|The Holy Trinity by Hendrik van Balen. St. James Church, Antwerp|
Our Collect this morning acknowledges that God has revealed this “wondrous mystery” to us. It’s not a mystery open to discovery by human reason; indeed, it’s beyond human understanding or explanation, however much great theologians like Augustine, Aquinas, and Rahner have tried to understand or explain it.
The Collect calls it “your mystery,” i.e. God’s mystery, the mystery of God’s own existence, his own being. But the Father has graciously chosen to reveal to us this mystery—to some degree.
God’s self-revelation began, according to our Scriptures, with Abraham and continued with Moses. The prophets reveal aspects of God’s mystery: his knowledge, his power, his compassion, his justice, etc. Our 1st reading today shows Moses speaking of God’s closeness to Israel, God who has spoken to them “from the midst of fire” (Deut 4:33), God who has redeemed Israel by “taking” them “for himself from the midst of another nation” (4:34), God who has tested them during the exodus and their years in the desert (4:34). All this God did for Israel to help them to know him, to “know and fix in [their] hearts, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other” (4:39). This revelation of God to men and women is unprecedented, says Moses: “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of?” (4:32).
So God has revealed himself in Israel’s story, in his interactions with this people he chose to be his own. It’s a story of grace and redemption, of fall and forgiveness.
But it’s only a partial revelation of God’s own self. The oneness of God, the uniqueness of God, shines forth in Israel’s history. There’s no hint of God’s threeness-in-one until we start reading back into the Hebrew Scriptures after the revelation that has come to us in Jesus Christ, e.g. by seeing Trinitarian references in God’s saying, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26), and in the 3 strangers who visit Abraham.
A more complete revelation of God comes thru the Incarnation of the Son, who speaks of his Father, who shows us something of the Father in himself, who sends the Holy Spirit upon us, and who sends us out into the whole world to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19), which means to baptize them into the Father, Son, and Spirit, into this 3-fold relationship; which incorporates Christians in the divine family: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”—and daughters too! (Rom 8:14); adopted by the Father in the Spirit, in union with the unique Son, we’re all entitled to invoke our Abba (8:15), and with the Son we’re listed in the divine will as heirs of the kingdom (8:17).
Our Lord Jesus has intensified the relationship between us, the new Israel, and God. In faith we see God as 3 Persons; we “acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory.” In the sacred mysteries of our liturgy, we adore the Three-in-One, and we even become one with them to a certain degree—another “wondrous mystery.”
God’s revelation of himself to us still isn’t complete. When we, his children, come into our inheritance, when we’re raised up with Christ Jesus and enter the kingdom, then “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). When we’re raised up with Christ Jesus and enter the kingdom, then our partial knowledge shall become full; we shall know fully, as we are fully known (1 Cor 13:12).
Interestingly, that full knowledge that Paul speaks of comes at the end of his hymn on love. Our full knowledge of God, and his full knowledge of us, is built on love, not on intellect. The adoration that we bring to the One God now, is already a gateway of love leading us to a fuller experience of the Holy Three—still, even with our New Testament revelation, “indistinctly, as in a mirror,” but with the hope of “fleshing out” what we see in the mirror, so to say, when we shall see him “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). If we can imagine how filled with joy, how ecstatic, a husband and wife are when they behold each other after a long separation—we’ve all seen pictures of troops returning from deployment, for example—what must it be like to behold God’s face—forever!