Proverbs 8: 14, 22 – 31
Romans 5: 1 – 5
John 16: 12 – 15
One of the great lines from Father Benson, which is among my favourites, is something he said about the Holy Trinity. Writing to Father Rivington in 1875, he says:
I quite feel that the practical neglect of the doctrine of the Trinity has been the great cause of the decay of Christendom. The Church – the Sacraments – Hagilogy, I had almost said Mythology – have filled the minds of devout people, partly for good partly for evil. ‘Thyself unmoved, all motion’s source’ this mystery of the circulating life of the eternal Godhead, has been almost lost to sight, spoken of as a mystery, and not felt as a power or loved as a reality.
It seems like a bit of an outrageous claim, that the decay of Christendom is because of the practical neglect of the doctrine of the Trinity. Any school child, after all, can tell you that three does not equal one, and nor does one equal three. For many however, the Trinity is just that: a mathematical impossibility. So how is it then, that the neglect of this mathematical formula, and a nonsensical one at that, is the cause of the decay of Christendom?
For Father Benson, the Trinity had nothing to do with mathematics. It’s not about trying to convince people that something which makes no sense, actually does. The Trinity isn’t about math. It is about God, and it has to do with the reality of God who can be known, felt, and loved, in practice. And that’s what Father Benson is getting at here. He’s not speaking of the almost or nearly neglect, as in saying about something well that’s practically impossible, as in it’s unlikely to happen. Instead Father Benson is speaking of the practice, the experience, the experiential. What he is saying, is that people are no longer experiencing the Trinity and that the circulating life of the eternal Godhead is no longer a felt power or a loved reality. Because that circulating life of the eternal Godhead is no longer a felt power, or loved reality, it is rejected as a nonsensical mathematical formula, and one more thing to discredit, an already largely discredited, and irrelevant Church.
Proverbs 8:14, 22-31/Psalm 8/Romans 5:1-5/John 16:12-15
Today we celebrate an idea—an idea that represents our best understanding of the mystery and paradox of God: the Holy Trinity. There is one and only one God; and this God is a trinity of persons.
There’s a delightful poem about the Trinity called “The Creed of St. Athanasius”. Whoever wrote it (it wasn’t St. Athanasius) probably didn’t mean to write delightful poetry, but I do find it both delightful and poetic. Here are a few lines from the Creed of St. Athanasius:
“… we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Spirit unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord… And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped…”
John Cassian was a monk living in the late fourth, early fifth centuries.i He was born in France to wealthy parents, received a good education, and while still a youth visited holy places in Palestine, where he decided to become a monk. Becoming a monk was no more the norm in his day than it is in ours.
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.”