Today’s homily is for Trinity Sunday, June 12, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
These words that we just read aloud are the core belief of the Christian community about the inner life and working of God. Those words were chosen by faithful men–most of whom are now saints of the Church–at the Councils of Nicaea in 325 and Constantinople in 381. Those men tried to find human words to express the infinite mystery of God–not an easy task.
I’m sure all of us at one point have had an experience for which we simply cannot find words adequate to express the reality. You might try to retell the event, the experience of natural beauty, or of human architecture or design, or an emotional event that radically changed your life. You probably sounded like a babbling idiot because the other person listening was like, “Nope, I’m not quite with you.” Finally, you just say, “Well, I don’t know, you just had to be there!” That experience for which words are always inadequate is referred to as ineffable. Ineffable is defined as, “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.”
That was the disciples’ experience of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They had always worshiped God the Father, Yahweh. They knew his laws and what he had done for them and their ancestors, and whatever Goddedness was had by Yahweh, the Apostles came to realize, was somehow also had by Jesus. Without a doubt Jesus wasn’t just human, he had Goddedness too–and so they worshiped him. God from God, light from light, true God from true God–of the same substance as the Father. And then came Pentecost (mind blown). The very same Goddedness that was shared by the Father and the Son, lived inside of them, changing them, teaching them, saving them. And they said, “Jesus promised he would send us the Advocate.” You know, the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified…oh yeah! and he has spoken through the prophets…yeah, that’s Him.
I’m human, you’re human, we possess…well, human-ness. Our personhood is unique, but we all possess humanity. Whatever makes God, God, God’s “Goddedness” although hard to explain, was experienced by the Apostles. They knew God the Father, they walked and talked with God the Son, they experienced God the Spirit at Pentecost. And they made up a word to describe that experience. They probably were going to call it a three-ity, or a Tri-godidity, (I would have called it a triangular-idity), but they decided to call their experience of three distinct persons who shared one substance of Goddedness, the Holy Trinity–and we’ve been trying to explain it ever since.
St. Augustine of Hippo said, “The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each of these by Himself, is God, and at the same time they are all one God; and each of them by Himself is a complete substance, and yet they are all one substance. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son: but the Father is only Father, the Son is only Son, and the Holy Spirit is only Holy Spirit. To all Three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power.”
But we need to move from the head to the heart. From definitions to experiences. The apostles didn’t write out the definition for the Trinity–they encountered it, and so can we. We pray, we receive Eucharist, and we feel the Spirit move within us–encouraging us, changing us, and saving us. Really, you just have to be there. Right in the middle of it all. Experiencing God’s ineffable love.