Trinity Sunday – Br. David Allen

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 / Rom. 5:1-5 / Jn. 16:12-15

This afternoon when our Brother Robert L’Esperance makes his Profession in Life Vows in the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, we shall sing the 9th century Latin hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, in the 17th century translation by Bp. John Cosin, as a prayer for inspiration and enlightenment. Its memorable final verses make it appropriate for this Sunday.  “Teach us to know the Father, Son, and thee, of both, to be but One, that through the ages all along, this may be our endless song: praise to thy eternal merit, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

According to custom dating from the early 10th C’y, the first Sunday after Pentecost each year is dedicated to the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  By the end of the Middle Ages it was made popular throughout Europe by monastic churches.

As Christians most of us come to know God through the reading of the Gospels and the other books of Holy Scripture used in the regular Worship of the Church. There the nature of God the Father is especially revealed to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and further enlightened and illuminated by the work of God the Holy Spirit as we pray and meditate on what we read, and what we hear read to us from Holy Scripture.  For many of us this knowledge was expanded and clarified by the lessons learned in Sunday-School classes in our youth.

Throughout the Church year, beginning with the Season of Advent through the Season of Eastertide, and culminating with the Feast of Pentecost, our attention has been focused on different aspects of the work of God.      Last Sunday we celebrated and gave special honor to the work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and Comforter promised by Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper.  By that promise the Holy Spirit comes to us, as he came to them, to strengthen and illuminate our faith and our knowledge of God.

In our readings for today’s Feast of the Holy Trinity we began by a reading from the Book of Proverbs concerning the role of the Wisdom of God from the beginning of creation.  We can understand this as a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit as one of the expressions of God’s work of creation.  Along with this was the Word of God, not yet incarnate as God the Son.

I think that those who have attended the Easter Vigil as we do it here at the monastery can remember the stirring words of Ps. 33 sung after the reading of the Story of Creation at the beginning of the “record of God’s saving deeds in history.” Its repeated antiphon, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts,” (Ps. 33:6) lets us see from our place in time how the fullness of the Trinity participated in the Creation of heaven and earth.

After reciting a “Song of Praise” for the gradual, following the first reading, we heard the words from Paul’s Letter to the Romans about the faith and peace that we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and our hope of sharing the glory of God, and God’s love that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Cf. Rom. 5:1-5)

We heard laid out before us in this same reading from Paul the process by which we can learn to accept sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” which “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Ibid. vv. 3-5)  This is a working in us of the gifts of all three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

In our Gospel reading we heard yet another example of Jesus’ promise, given in last week’s Gospel reading, concerning the sending of the Holy Spirit after he was no longer with them in the way in which he had been.

In the Gospel reading for last Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost, we heard that the Holy Spirit would be sent, and would teach them everything that they would need for carrying the Gospel message into all the world.  In today’s Gospel reading we just heard with the disciples of Jesus that “when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn. 16:13)  Jesus went on to explain to them that the Holy Spirit would not be speaking on his own, but would be speaking whatever he heard, and would declare the things that were to come.  Jesus said to them, “All that the Father has is mine.  For this reason … he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  I take this to mean that whatever the Spirit should declare to the Apostles, or to us, will be the truth that comes from the Father, and the Son.  By his imparting it, it comes to us also from the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will glorify the Son by taking the truth shared by the Father and the Son and declaring it to us on behalf of the fullness of the Holy Trinity.

After we have declared our faith in the Blessed Trinity of three persons, One God, and in the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church by reciting the Creed, as we shall do shortly, we shall join in the Prayers and the exchange of the Peace. Then we shall have our opportunity to give praise and thanks to God the Holy Trinity as we hear the Proper Preface. “For with your co-eternal Son and Holy Spirit, you are one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Being: and we celebrate the one and equal glory of you, O Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (BCP p. 380)  Then we can join in reciting together with Angels and Archangels the Sanctus, the angelic hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.”

The Holy Eucharist comes to its climax in the Great Thanksgiving and in our taking and receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in Communion. We should be aware at that time that we are indeed taking part in the worship of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  For it is God the Father who created us and all things, God the Son who redeemed us by his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, and the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us, now and always, as we keep our hearts open in love.

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  1. Ruth West on June 2, 2015 at 23:56

    Brother David, thanks for this good sermon on the Trinity. In paragraph three you referred to “God the Holy Spirit.” (in reference to John David’s question.)
    I like the ancient drawings which illustrated the three persons as circles with the heart being God.
    “The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Spirit; the Spirit is not the Father, etc.”
    but each and all are God. Each circle interlocks with the next one.
    Trinity Sunday is so significant in the church calendar.
    I so enjoy the sermons from the monastery.
    Thanks again.

  2. John David Spangler on May 29, 2015 at 07:13

    Brother David, I started to gain a better understanding of the Holy Trinity when reading “The Dogma is the Drama” in Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Leigh Sayers. In that she wrote: “Q.: What is the doctrine of the Trinity? “A.: ‘The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible.’ Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult— nothing to do with daily life. . . . ”. It is not “incomprehensible”. Thank you for adding particularly to my understanding of its place in my “daily life”. I have one question regarding the final sentence of your sermon. It read: “For it is God the Father who created us and all things, God the Son who redeemed us by his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, and the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us, now and always, as we keep our hearts open in love.” The question is: Why did you not say “God the Holy Spirit”?
    Again, I thank you for, as DLaRue so aptly put it, “Simple clarity in rendering a systematic theological point in pastoral language is a gift of David Allen’s that I am always happy to receive.” Peace! David

  3. DLa Rue on March 11, 2013 at 09:48

    Simple clarity in rendering a systematic theological point in pastoral language is a gift of David Allen’s that I am always happy to receive. Blessings….and thanks!

  4. Derald W. Stump on June 21, 2011 at 11:03

    I am so thankful for the life and thoughts of Brother David. I met him at the monastery in Oyama, Japan in 1954 ! He and Bishop Viall, SSJE, who ministered at the chapel of St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo, were two memorable clerics to those of us who were in the military in that far away land.

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