Speak Lord: At one with the triune God?

IMG_1624aBaptism of 2,000 Anglo-Saxons on the banks of the river Medway.jpg

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them.

He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

Gospel for Trinity Sunday
Matthew 28:16-20

The command is to unite the peoples of the world with God the Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier; Father, Son and Spirit. Too often sadly this gift is used to distinguish and separate Christians both from one another, according to denomination or Church; and Christians from others of their brothers and sisters in the created order.

This sort of separation of Christians from others has to be distinguished from our  being set apart to be a holy people, in service of the will of God. The one is our honour; the other is to our shame.

Baptism of 2,000 Anglo-Saxons on the banks of the river Medway. Detail of Fresco by Sergei Fyodorov. Rochester Cathedral (c) 2012. Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Called to unity

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May receiving this Sacrament, O Lord our God,
bring us health of body and soul,
as we confess your eternal holy Trinity and undivided Unity.
Through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

One of the briefest prayers at Mass on Sunday, Trinity Sunday, the Prayer after Communion beautifully summarises the mystery of God and the challenge for us.

God is three and God is one: a mystery which defies logic and mathematics. Each of us is one person but, gosh, we are so often divided within and from our self.

For God the diversity achieves perfect expression in unity. So too for us, but we have not got there yet – our heart and our mind are in different places; our body and soul too. God works to unite us, each of us, so we become ourselves, entire, whole, and holy. And then God seeks to draw us together in community with each other and with him.

It is through our perception of God in his glory and humility; and in our reception of his grace in its manifold forms that we are helped to health, and made fit for eternal life.

  • What best moves you to contemplation of God, and how do you try to make the most of this?
  • What helps you to know yourself better, and how do you make the most of this?

Icon,  featured in exhibition in Château des ducs de Bretagne Nantes, 2016. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Unite us in you

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Brothers, we wish you happiness; try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Greet one another with the holy kiss. All the saints send you greetings.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

The second reading at Mass on Sunday, Trinity Sunday, draws from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, sharing again his greeting and trinitarian blessing.

The words are familiar in ecumenical circles, in this translation as ‘the Grace’, and are used in a slightly different translation as one of the forms of greeting at Mass during the Introductory Rites.

It is a beautiful and simple prayer that lends itself to comfortable use in many settings, public and private.

  • How and when do you pray for others?

Trinity. Cathedral of the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: God for us

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Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.’

John 3:16-18

This coming Sunday we celebrate the most profound mystery of the Christian Faith: God’s revelation of his inner being. The One God has become known to us also as three divine persons, united in substance. The triune God is above all made known to us in love – in the self giving of the Son for love of the Father, and the pouring out of the Spirit.

The feast of the Trinity, is kept each year on the Sunday following the end of the Easter Season. This is most appropriate, as it is most especially through the experience of the Paschal Mystery that we best appreciate the mystery of the Trinity.

  • To which person of the Trinity do you most attend in your prayer? Father, Son or Spirit?
  • By which are you most influenced in your daily life

Throne of Grace. Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

 

 

Taste and See: the living, working God

Trinity Raphael

The Collect for Mass yesterday, Trinity Sunday, speaks of God and his triune mystery.

God our Father, who by sending into the world
the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification
made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,
grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,
we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

It is through the mission of the Word and Spirit that God is known to us as triune, Father, Son and Spirit. It is in that service intended to free us from sin and death that something more of the richness and glory of God is made known to us.

We too reveal ourselves in our actions.

  • As what might people know you. from your actions?
  • How much more of you remains hidden/potential but not yet realised?

Detail from the Disputation on the Eucharist. Raphael, Vatican. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: In wisdom and joy

Trinity, Russia Museum

The First reading at Mass today, Trinity Sunday, comes from the Old Testament book of Proverbs. It is one of those passages from the Jewish Scriptures where there is a certain openness to differentiation within the Divine, the One God. The language resonates with the later Christian language of Word, Logos, to describe the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son.

In both cases, Wisdom, Logos/Son, the language points us beyond what we can easily say of God and still talk of the unity of God. The scripture, the doctrine of Trinity help us dimly discern a way into the more that revelation and experience require us to engage with as we respond to the awesome Mystery of God, and God’s engagement with us.

The Wisdom of God cries aloud:

The Lord created me when his purpose first unfolded,
before the oldest of his works.
From everlasting I was firmly set,
from the beginning, before earth came into being.
The deep was not, when I was born,
there were no springs to gush with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
before the hills, I came to birth;
before he made the earth, the countryside,
or the first grains of the world’s dust.
When he fixed the heavens firm, I was there,
when he drew a ring on the surface of the deep,
when he thickened the clouds above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep,
when he assigned the sea its boundaries
– and the waters will not invade the shore –
when he laid down the foundations of the earth,
I was by his side, a master craftsman,
delighting him day after day,
ever at play in his presence,
at play everywhere in his world,
delighting to be with the sons of men.

Proverbs 8:22-31

Wisdom speaks of God’s joy and delight in her presence and Wisdom’s own delight to be with humankind.

  • What gives you joy?
  • What difference does joy make to your life and your relationship with God and neighbour.

Icon of the Trinity. Russian Museum, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: our future

Volkov Composition

Sunday is the feast of the Trinity.

The Second reading at the Mass for the feast comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It speaks about our being drawn into the life of God through the gift of Christ, and about the gift of the Holy Spirit orienting us to the glory of God..

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. But that is not all we can boast about; we can boast about our sufferings. These sufferings bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance, and perseverance brings hope, and this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.

Romans 5:1-5

St Paul, beautifully and movingly, traces the progression that can be ours through the work of the Spirit. That said, it is often a progression that can be best discerned when we look back!

Boasting of sufferings is rarely where we start from. Yet, how wonderful it is when a sense of perspective is restored and we can see our struggles and reverses for the passing things that they are. And the constancy and sustenance of God for the glory that it is for us.

  • What reversal has most surprised you?
  • From which have you learnt most?

Composition by Vladimir Volkow. Russian Museum, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Love for the taking, love for the living

Liverpool Christ in Glory

The Collect at Mass on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter drummed home its point. And it made and makes the point that we are who we are because of the personal and direct connection we have with God, who acts and acts and acts to draw us into communion with him and with each other.

God of everlasting mercy,
who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed,
by whose Spirit they have been reborn,
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect for Second Sunday of Easter

The font in which we are washed is that of the Father’s mercy; the Spirit is the Spirit that unites Father and Son, and that they share with us; and the Blood is that of the Son who took flesh to dwell among us and lead us home. Holy, Holy, Holy God comes to save.

The Collect is a prayer that these gifts, this offer of communion with the persons of God, are not given in vain.

Today in our daily living, let us look for signs of acceptance and signs of failure to accept and live to these gifts. Somewhat like Lent, but in a different key, Easter is a time for active cooperation with God’s grace.

Image of Christ from Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

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.

Taste and See: And love…

Hidden Church, AmsterdamThe Preface for Trinity Sunday’s Mass was proper to the feast

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit
you are one God, one Lord:
not in the unity of a single person,
but in a Trinity of one substance.
For what you have revealed to us of your glory
we believe equally of your Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
so that, in the confessing of the true and eternal Godhead,
you might be adored in what is proper to each Person,
their unity in substance,
and their equality in majesty.
For this is praised by Angels and Archangels,
Cherubim, too, and Seraphim,
who never cease to cry out each day,
as with one voice they acclaim:

Holy, Holy, Holy…

The text reminds us that for all the virtue and value of tussling with the doctrine of the Trinity, and there is much of both, the most natural response is that of adoration – of love that begets love. Loved by God, and transformed by his love for us, we can love him in return and also show love for those around us. Love begets love.

Often our prayer can be busy and preoccupied with needs and wants. Quiet prayer of adoration can help us get things in proportion, the more complete turn to God for God’s sake, can even help us better distinguish our wants from our needs.

Images of the Trinity in the ‘Hidden Church’, Amsterdam. (c) 2008, Allen Morris.