“What Do You Really Believe?” Trinity

“Do you want to know what the Trinity is: God laughs and creates the Son. The Son laughs and creates the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit laughs and creates us.” Meister Eckhart.

The three Women, Trinity

The three Women, Trinity

Thomas Merton and more recently Cynthia Bourgeault describe the making of the Trinity as a flow of divine love. Both of them describe the Cappadocian “brothers”; Basil, Gregory of Nanzianzus  and Gregory of Nyssa, as the keys to the formulation of the idea of the Trinity as a divine flow of love and energy between the three “persons’ of the Trinity. They were not primarily trying to prove anything about the divinity of Christ, but rather the flow of energy between the three.

“Indeed the word hypostasis in Greek does not mean an individual at all but more a state of being… The Cappadocians were interested in how this movement or change of state, takes place. They saw it as an out pouring of love from Father to Son, From Son to Spirit and from Spirit back to Father. The Trinity in this sense is really an icon of overflowing and self-emptying love.  The three person go round and round like buckets on a watermill constantly overflowing into one another. As  they do the mill turns and the energy of love becomes manifest and accessible.“ (The Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault, pgs 71 and 72,)

Both authors describe this process of divine relationship as a dance. Merton writes about it in his “Seeds of Contemplation”, as the divine seeking to play in the dance with human beings, God reaching out God’s loving arms to take us into the sacred dance of life.

Seen in this way the Trinity is the flow of love and laughter between the three beings of the divine and describes our own relationship with the Holy.  The divine laughter that delights in the creative and imaginative relationship between all the three persons of the Trinity in turn becomes a design and template for our own spiritual life. The Trinity is an icon of the holy, of the divine dance of love exchanged between three manifestations of the Divinity. That is why one becomes “seduced” by life in the spirit. It is filled with laughter and delight. One begins to see with the eye of the heart as if for the first time. Everything becomes a doorway to the sacred, there is no door that is locked and bolted.

Still one of the great questions raised for my generation is that of Bonhoeffer who asked, “What do you really believe, believe enough to stake your life on it.” In the 70’s a group of us went to work to write our own creeds, they changed frequently, they were imaginative and inclusive, they envisioned the Holy as One and Compassion, as within and beyond. One creed penned by Richard York and John Pairman Brown stated, “ Bread means revolution and the bread is rising.” The author’s described a time when our youth were in a war and when our fathers had returned or not from two other wars. The time now was to raise questions about who we are and to emphasize counter-cultural words and lives of Jesus and the prophets. Sometimes the times do not change.

Back then we intoned the creeds. A chord was played in a descending and ascending order and the people would sing it in parts. Taize and African American and Latino rhythms were teaching us to chant and sing and dance in new ways. The Creeds are meant to be sung and danced and laughed. They are not meant to serve as a litmus test for what one believes, because the edges blur in song and poetry and in the dance. “I believe in One God, The Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth” can deaden the spirit when treated as a statement of rule and law and not an opportunity to enter into the mystery and the numinous and the unitive relationship of lover between the Father/Mother, Son and Holy Spirit.

And yet to the young and more literal mind, the Creeds are something to which to hold on for dear life in the swirling tides and eddy’s of the many spiritual voices that surround us. For all the creeds problems with history and with its abuses it is still a song to be sung as we stand together and recite the ancient words, the best formulation that the gathered church has yet imagined.

The Trinity in the Creed helps me focus and perpetually continues to remind me that here is a song to be sung and danced and laughed and not a pledge of allegiance. The allegiance comes when the heart is opened and comes with lightness and gentleness. When we lose sight of its wonder, I begin again to fret about my friends who don’t see things my way. Even the most beautiful of poem can become the instrument of evil.  Invictus, for instance was used as a clarion call for the bomber who killed many in Oklahoma City. We singers and laughers and dancers are called to be vigilant about the abuses of the words we say and pray and believe. After all is said, “I believe we are all One flow from and to the divine and back again. And I know I’m not always in that flow. ” And I’d defend anyone who didn’t see it that way. I crave the beauty of dissent much more than thoughtless conformity.






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