In the Image of the Trinity

Andrei Rublev, Icon of the Trinity (15th century) 

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

With the revelation of the Trinity, the totality of reality is bathed in a new light. Every domain of human life is transformed. What does a tri-personal universe look like?

Let us listen to St. Gregory of Nazianzus, also called “The Theologian” (Oration 40.41):

This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the One Godhead and Power, found in the Three in Unity, and comprising the Three separately, not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of Three Infinite Ones, Each God when considered in Himself; as the Father so the Son, as the Son so the Holy Ghost; the Three One God when contemplated together; Each God because Consubstantial; One God because of the Monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light. 

The personal God who spoke to Moses in a cloud “face to face, as a man speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11) has revealed himself in Jesus Christ as simultaneously and primordially Three and One. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are absolutely diverse and absolutely one. Each Person is the “Whole” divinity without dividing or sharing it in an ineffable manner beyond logical categories. The Trinity is “divided without division” in St. Gregory’s faltering words (Oration 39.11). More elegantly put in another translation, the Trinity is “divided indivisibly” or “undivided dividedly.” 

Minds “captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) can no longer think of “God” or divinity in abstraction from the Three Persons. Eternal life is knowing the Father and the one whom he sent, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), by the inspiration of the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). The Three are One and the One is Three inseparably, both in reality and in thought. 

In discourse about the historical unfolding of divine revelation we speak of the “God of Abraham and Moses,” but after Pentecost, we habitually pray and live in the love of the Trinity. 

Humanity in the image of the Trinity means that absolutely diverse persons are each and every one stewards of the one human nature without division. “Indivisibly divided” and “undivided dividedly,” persons in communion transcend blood lines, tribes, languages and cultures. The notion of “family” becomes a communion that encompasses all persons without exclusion. If persons are absolutely unique and unrepeatable, there are actually no “relatives” in ultimate reality. In the realm of personal communion transcending the earthly condition of divided individuals, the “distance” between one person and another is exactly the same, that is, non-existent. Distance comes from measure, but in personal communion distinction transcends and takes the place of measure.

The idea of distance arises from the experience of measuring. To measure a certain length one begins with a standard, such as a meter stick. The length to be measured is then quantified in units of the standard. 

In the world of measures, individuals are compared using standardized tests, meter sticks, scales and thermometers. This is possible because individuals exist in a quantifiable condition of material extension. Biological descent, blood lines and genetics are all woven from the fabric of material extension. One individual is measured against another, compared, weighed, valued (and sometimes devalued). 

Persons, however, cannot be measured. Unlike individuals who are cut from one material fabric, persons transcend divisibility. Each person contains the whole human nature, a reality that is invisible to the physical eye and unmeasurable. Persons are also wholly distinct, one from another, transcending relativity. Things that are relative and comparable have a shared foundation in relative degrees. Not so with persons. In the image of the Trinity, the one deified human nature in Christ is not participated in degrees but encompassed whole and entire by each and every person. 

Much more could be said about this, but we can only live, think and write one day at a time.

One Reply to “In the Image of the Trinity”

  1. Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.
    – Thich Nhat Hanh

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