God for us, we call you Father. God alongside us, we call you Jesus. God within us, we call you Holy Spirit. —Richard Rohr OFM
The Holy Trinity landed in my inbox this morning and told me a story. Well, that makes it sound a little too dramatic and anthropomorphic. What landed in my inbox was Richard Rohr’s daily meditation for Dec. 15, “A Trinitarian Universe.” (You can sign up for his meditations HERE and get an overview HERE.) And Rohr, a Franciscan priest and founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, told exactly the story I needed to hear.
“For Richard Rohr,” says today’s headnote, “the Trinity provides the foundation for a benevolent universe.”
Why, yes, I thought, I could use some of that.
But the Trinity? That’s always seemed pretty abstract. So much a part of life I don’t give it much thought. “In the morning when you get up,” Luther advises us in the Small Catechism, “you can bless yourself with the sign of the Holy Cross and say: In the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.” With that invocation, he moves on to the Lord’s Prayer and a lovely prayer that concludes: “[…] I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. […] Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The formula calls upon a holy mystery, to be sure. But without what comes next, I’m left with more on the mystery side of the ledger than the holy. I’ll have to think about it.
So I read on in today’s meditation. Rohr has this to say about the Father:
God for us is my understanding of, and code word for, the Father. It tells us that reality is foundationally benevolent. Reality is on our side. It’s not a scary universe. It tells us that God, like a good father, is for us and is protective of us. You can just as easily call God Mother, or Inherent Goodness, or Primal Love. […]
Without a break, Rohr segues right into the Holy Spirit:
[…] God within us is my code word for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is that inner aliveness that heals people and awakens them from their wounds. I often call the Spirit an interior homing device. For all our stupidity and mistakes, we have a deep internal intuition that we are children of God. It’s called the divine indwelling.
Now he’s talking! My Lutheran faith tradition isn’t always very big on the indwelling of the Triune God in the faith of a believer, although Luther had quite a bit to say about Christ’s presence in faith, and a school of mostly Finnish theologians is reevaluating what it means for us today. In the meantime, Catholic authors like Rohr reach back to the Franciscan mystics as they speak of a Cosmic Christ present “whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere.” Says Rohr in today’s meditation:
I understand Jesus as God alongside us. Jesus is the accompanying God who walks with us, especially through the mystery of death and resurrection. The paschal mystery is the summary of all of Jesus’ teaching and experience. Jesus is the manifest one who comes forth from the unmanifest and reveals the divine pattern. The pattern that Jesus the manifest one reveals is that the divine pattern is loss and renewal, death and resurrection. There is no other way. We dare not try to define any universe where there is no death and where there is no loss.
A lot there to think about. And it ties in with something that landed in my inbox back in June. Debi and I joined the associates’ program of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield this year, and we get email copies of the homilies, or sermons, preached at the motherhouse. This year’s homily at Sacred Heart Chapel for Trinity Sunday, June 12, included these thoughts. I had never thought of the Trinity as a story before;
In the face of mystery, we often tell a story; and perhaps it’s because a true mystery is not something unknowable; it is something infinitely knowable: we will never come to the end of learning about a true mystery. And so we talk about it; we study it; we try to understand it or find meaning in it; to find something we can identify with. Storytelling gives us a way into the mystery and a way out. It helps us to discover some truth or grace hidden in our experience – perhaps about ourselves and our lives or about the world and even about God. Telling the story can give us insight and it can also bring healing, hope and wholeness when we experience something difficult or painful.
On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the greatest mystery of all: the mystery of One God in Three Persons, impossible for us to comprehend. […]
But the homily for Trinity Sunday gives a hint. Well, more like three hints. The first:
God created all that is. He shared his goodness and love by giving life to all things. He brought life out of nothing. The story is about God who creates life and sustains it.
God saves: in time, God entered his own creation. He became human, like us in all things but sin and as our Savior and servant, God in Jesus Christ, gave his all, laying down his life to save us, to restore our friendship with him and to lead us into everlasting life.
And the third:
To make us holy and to transform all of creation, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, to be one with us, which is the purpose of our existence, i.e., union with God, which we experience most clearly when we receive the Eucharist.
Tell the stories together, and this is what we get: “We were created in the image of God and so we are called to be like God, to imitate God. Our story is like his.” But “we don’t do this alone,” adds the homily for Trinity Sunday at the Dominican convent in Springfield:
All of this happens in a community. Just as God is a community of persons, composed of relationships and united in love, so we too live in a community of persons, composed of relationships, and united in love – the Church and our local community. As a community of faith, we reflect the very mystery of the Trinity. Today we celebrate that mystery: one God in Three Persons, whose deepest desire is to be ONE with us – and to bring us all together in unity, peace and love here on earth and in the Kingdom of heaven.
When the Dominican sisters gather for Mass at the motherhouse in Springfield, they tell a story. When Martin Luther and Katie von Bora gathered their young family for prayer in the 1520s, they told a story. When I offer up Luther’s morning prayer, or something very like it asking help from God’s holy angels, I tell a story. When Lutheran theologians at the University of Helsinki write of the indwelling of Christ in the faith of a believer, they tell a story. Building on the stories that Franciscan theologians like St. Bonaventure and Duns Scotus told in their day, Richard Rohr tells a story very much like it in books like The Cosmic Christ and his work at the CAC Albuquerque (see prayer below). I think in the end, it’s all the same story.
CAC’s Prayer For Our Community
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[Uplinked Dec. 23, 2022]