Several years ago, in an issue of the Jesuit weekly America, there was an intriguing article entitled “Back to Wonder” with the subtitle “The search for meaning in a scientific world” by a John Savant, a professor emeritus at Dominican College in California. He speaks about the loss of wonder or religious imagination.
Living in an urban area, too few of us have the time or the space to stand in awe at, what to quote St. Paul is, the “reality in which we live and move and have our being”.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Trinity – the cogwheel, the springboard of everything else. To some degree, we have straitjacketed our beliefs in various dogmatic expressions, which are good and necessary so that we St. Augustine wrote in the fourth century, if we think that we have defined God then it is something else that we have defined!
That same Augustine had a telling encounter with a young boy on the beach near the north African city of Hippo, where Augustine was the Bishop. The boy was happily running back and forth from the surf with a pail. He scooped water from the surf and then emptied it in a hole he had dug on the beach. When the Bishop enquired as to the purpose of this enterprise, the boy responded that he was attempting to empty the entire Mediterranean Sea into the hole. When the Bishop gently chided him that this was impossible; the boy, undoubtedly a future theologian, responded that it was equally impossible for the bishop to attempt to describe the Trinity. Augustine had what we might call an “a-ha” moment. The Bishop realized the truth of this precocious young man’s statement.
And yet God has seen fit to reveal something of Himself to us. What theologians term: “the economic trinity” – it has nothing to do with money – but rather it speaks of God’s relationship with us: a God who creates; a God who saves; a God who guides and sanctifies us. And from the earliest days, this relationship was believed to reflect the inner Reality of God. The relationships were termed Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three Persons in the One God.
Judging by the ministry of Jesus and supported by hints from the Old Testament, the dogma of the Trinity developed. For instance, our first reading from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs personifies Wisdom as the creating agent of God. The early Church saw in Jesus the wisdom and face of the hidden God. That hidden God reveals Himself or self-communicates. Early Christians, as they prayed and reflected about the life and ministry of Jesus, came to realize that every word and action of Jesus is that of God, but in human terms we can grasp and appreciate. Jesus is God’s Self-Communication. “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (Paul – I Cor t:241
We might be tempted to ignore the doctrine of the Trinity: only referencing it when signing ourselves before prayer. Occasionally we might wonder how this can be? This is where our religious imagination has dulled. lf we have the chance during the summer, let us gaze up at the sky after dark and there behold the millions of light specks, all of which are stars, many of which are much bigger than our sun. Some, scientists tell us, are so far away in light years, that what we see is the light traveling through space from a star that no longer even exists.
Light travels at 186,000 miles per second; one minute is 60x that; an hour 60x more; a day 24x that; a year 350x that. lf we were to attempt to write all that on the walls of the church we would cover them with zeroes. And that’s one light year. Astronomers will regularly talk about other solar systems that are hundreds of light years away. We can’t grasp that! Hundreds of light years is an infinitely vast distance.
The Creator of all that vastness has given us a glimpse at His own internal life – a life, like the universe He creates, that lies beyond our capacity to fully grasp it. One of the principal functions of all religions has been to mediate the great mysteries. Why is there anything rather than nothing? Why is matter relatively consistent in its behavior? Why is life here never fully satisfactory? What follows death?
The mystery of the Trinity invites us to think big! lf we take time to look at our universe, in its microscopic and macroscopic forms, we become very little and our contemplation and reflection opens the doors to think about the Author of all this. Take off the headphones, unplug the I-pod or pad and look! Thinking big means silence and space. It is mediated in quiet time.
The readings chosen by the Church for this feast speak something of the Trinity. The wellspring of everything is one God, Whose very internal nature involves a loving relationship between the three divine Persons. That God draws all things into being. ln Jesus, He reveals His loving nature to the creature made in his image and likeness – us. Jesus before the
Ascension tells us that He will send the Spirit to sanctify, guide and direct the community of the faithful and all of us. To know that Triune God, it is necessary to think big!