The Trinity: Intimacy and Transcendence
Arians are all around us, and among us, and within us. They are the intellectually arrogant in the academia. They attempt to rewrite history. They declare that Jesus was just a man, a good man, yes, but just a man. The Trinity is too much for them. Jesus is too much for them.
Where did this word Arian come from? Well, in the fourth century of the Church, Arius, a priest of Alexandria, Egypt, declared that Jesus was not the Son of God. His heresy made Christianity easier to accept. People did not have to suspend their rationality to accept that which was beyond their abilities. The laws of Christianity were now just a matter of advice, not the New Law of God. Arianism grew so popular that, according to some historians, over two thirds of Christians went over to this heresy. But the Power of God, the Holy Spirit, prevailed and through various councils of the Church, the belief in the Trinity was codified into the formula we continue to use: “There is one God, who has three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person is God, yet there is still only one God.”
Belief in the Trinity was not created by the early councils of the Church. It was given to us by God himself. It is in the Bible. The Old Testament points to the Trinity speaking about the Eternal Son who will come and suffer for the forgiveness of sins, Isaiah, and who will judge the world, Daniel, and whose Spirit will rest upon us, Ezekiel. Look at the New Testament. Start with the records of Christmas. We call these the Infancy Narratives. The Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are written to emphasize that Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Mary. Joseph was his foster father. An even deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus presented in the Gospel of John. The theme of this gospel is John 3:16: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The beginning of the Gospel of John, usually called the Prologue, tells us about the Eternal Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us. The existence and the power of the Holy Spirit are also experienced throughout the New Testament, particularly in the Gospels of Luke and John and the writings of St. Paul. The Holy Spirit continues to be experienced in the Church.
Belief in the Trinity demands acknowledging God’s infinite superiority in all areas including our rationality. Adam and Eve refused to do that. They pushed God aside, turned away from life and gave us death. The Arians, including the modern day arians of the academia, do not have the humility to admit that man’s knowledge of the Divine is limited by the finite capability of the human mind. They do not have the humility to enter into mystery, the mystery of God. I like to consider it this way: an eight year old cannot understand calculus. He or she is incapable of that form of understanding. But calculus still exists. Most of our top high school students could not come to the theory of relativity, but it is a valid theory. Because some knowledge is beyond us does not mean that it doesn’t exist. What does exist is the pride and arrogance we all have to refuse to go beyond the limits of our minds and accept God’s mysteries. The trouble is that we humans are proud. We would like to determine who God is, what He should be like, etc. We try to fit him into our mental constructs. In doing so, we are refusing to enter into mystery.
Dom Julian, a Benedictine monk, wrote, “All that matters is that God is God, and I, I am only I.”
Within the Mystery of the Trinity dells the wonderful belief that God is both close to us and beyond us, Intimate and Transcendent. The Eternal Creator of the universe shocked us by establishing an intimate relationship with us. At baptism we receive His Life. Our bodies are sacred, holy, because we are the dwelling place of God. My favorite verse in Scripture is the concluding verse of the Gospel of Matthew and of our Gospel for this Sunday: “Know that I am with you always until the end of time.” He is always there. We can pray to Him within us, and in times of crisis ask Him for that power that is beyond us. So we pray for miracles of healing, we pray for miracles of forgiveness, we pray for the miracle of His Body and Blood.
We are made in the image and likeness of God, the Book of Genesis tells us. That means that we share in His Closeness and His Beyond. This is how we make God present in our society. We are given His Presence so that others can find Him in us, and ultimately, enjoy His presence in themselves. At the same time, our focus in life must be transcendent, on things above, on God. Yes, we work hard to provide for ourselves and our children, but only so we can better serve God. After all, the goal of all Christian parents is to allow their children to reach their spiritual potential. The goal of Christian parents is to all their children to live forever as children of God. That is why people have children, correct? Children are created for Love, His Love.
The intimacy and transcendence necessary for Christian life is summarized in a remarkable way in a letter to a Greek official, Diognetus, dating back to the third or fourth century. The life of the Christians is the same life that we live. I want to read a little sections of it:
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. Yet, there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as if they were only passing through. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. The are obedient to the law, but they live on a level that transcends the law.
How are we to translate this intimacy and transcendence into our modern context? We can do this by focusing on the One who is intimate and transcendent, Jesus Christ. He is one of us, with us always. He is the eternal Son of the Father, present at the dawn of Creation, sitting at the Right Hand of the Father judging the living and the dead.
Every action of our lives must be grounded in our union with Jesus Christ. We do not worship to experience an emotional release, such as we might experience on Christmas and Easter. We do not worship to keep other people happy. We worship because we need the Lord in our lives and in the lives of our families. Parents worship to ask God to help them make Him real for their children. We all worship to experience His Presence in others and to provide others with an experience of His Presence. We worship to ask God to help us draw closer to Him every day of life that we have left. We worship because we have all absorbing desire to live for God.
After all, we are an intimate part of the Mystery of God. We are part of the Eternal Plan of God for His Creation. We pray today for the humility to accept His Mystery into our lives. We pray today for the courage to live His Mystery. May we be in the world, intimate, yet not of the world, transcendent. May the Lord give us the strength to live in His Image and Likeness.