Taste and See: Trinity

Baptism Piero della Francesco

The second reading on Sunday came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It is a remarkable account of the blessing we receive in Christ, from the Father, retained by us by the gift of the Spirit.

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.

Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight.

He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.

And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.

Ephesians 1:3-14

Paul – long before the Council of Nicaea – offers a remarkable description of the Trinity not in itself but as working for our salvation. We are who we are, and are becoming who God longs for us to be, because of the One God, Father, Son and Spirit.

Often in our personal piety, and our understanding of the faith, Christians neglect the Trinity for an expression or experience of faith that is heavily weighted in favour of one or other person of the Trinity. We focus on Jesus at the expense of Spirit or Father, or the Spirit at the neglect of…. You get the point!

The Mystery of the Trinity is a great one, and it is not surprising we have difficulty ‘managing’ it, sometimes veering towards Tritheism (treating theTriune God as though God were three Gods), sometimes towards a sort of Deism (God almost as an abstract ‘given’, rather than God as revealed and revealing, saving us and calling us to live in covenant with Him), and doubtless veering in all sorts of other ways too!

Perhaps Paul’s hymn of praise can encourage us to know again the wonder of God’s personal love for us, and to contemplate the glory of the Trinity.

  • What difference does it make to you that God is Three and not only One?
  • The classic description of Christian prayer is that we pray to the Father, in the Son and by the Spirit. Is this how you would describe your understanding of what you do when you pray?
  • How in prayer (and the rest of life) do you relate to Father, Son and Spirit? What is the same? What different?

Piero della Francesco, in the painting above (in London’s National Gallery) depicts the Baptism in a very naturalistic, worldly way, and at the same time guides us into an appreciation of the transcendent and saving Mystery – in which the gospels describe the active participation of Father, Son and Spirit. Photograph (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

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