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In 2017, Trinity Sunday is June 11.

As I explained in 2010, also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it falls on the Sunday after Pentecost.

Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and many Presbyterians celebrate this important feast day honouring the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The celebrant wears white vestments.

That post has more information on the history of Trinity Sunday, one of the major feast days in the Church calendar.

These posts might also be of interest:

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

Trinity Sunday 2016: May 22 (John 16:12-15, three-year Lectionary Year C)

Now is a good time to explain the Holy Trinity to children. The concept of Three-in-One can be difficult to grasp, but one Lutheran pastor came up with an ingenious way of explaining it with an egg. This is foolproof:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

I hope that all my readers have a blessed day rejoicing in the Triune God.

(Comments temporarily off.)


May 22 is Trinity Sunday 2016.

(Image credit: God and Science)

Past posts on this important feast in the Church are as follows:

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

On Trinity Sunday

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday — an Anglican analysis of its importance

The Gospel reading for Year C of the three-year Lectionary used in public worship is John 16:12-15:

16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus spoke these words just after the Last Supper. It was His final teaching session with the Twelve. John documents the entire lesson: John 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Those are, in my opinion, the most beautiful chapters of the New Testament.

In this reading, we discover that Jesus had much more to say, however, He knew that the Apostles could not fully understand it (verse 12). Matthew Henry explains:

it would have confounded and stumbled them, rather than have given them any satisfaction.

Hence the sending of the Holy Spirit to them and the disciples on the first Pentecost, so that the Spirit would lead them into ‘all the truth’ as He hears it (verse 13). The Spirit also told them of what was to come, a primary example of which is St John’s Book of Revelation.

The dramatic Book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit guided the disciples to do great things in the name of Christ Jesus. John MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):

The very first day the Spirit of God came He began to show things to come. And you could just go right through the Bible and you’ll find out He continued to show things to come.

In Acts chapter 11 He showed some more things to come. In Acts chapter 20 He showed some more things to come. In Acts chapter 21 He showed some more things to come. In the early days of the Spirit’s coming He began to show prophecy that would come to pass, things to come, directed by the Holy Spirit. Listen to Revelation 1:1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Things to come, I believe there, refers to everything from the church age on but has great reference to the prophetic truth …

It’s replete with truth. The whole book of Revelation is loaded with things to come. So there’s the pattern of the Spirit. He not only speaks from God but He speaks of things to come through the church age and out through eternity.

Henry points out:

He shall show you things to come, and so it is explained by Revelation 1:1. God gave it to Christ, and he signified it to John, who wrote what the Spirit said, Revelation 1:1.

In another sermon, MacArthur explains:

What are the four gospels? Who’s the main person in the four gospels? Jesus Christ. Who’s the main person in the book of Acts preaching the gospel by the apostles to establish the church and becomes the head of the church? Christ. Who’s the main person in all the Epistles that explain the meaning of the gospel? Christ. Who’s the main person in Revelation? Christ.

He is not everywhere in the Old Testament, He is many places: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, many others. But He is everywhere in the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament write to explain either the history of His life, the significance of the gospel as He builds His church, or an explanation of the theology of the gospel and the Epistles, or the glory of the revelation. “These are written about Christ that you might believe – ” as John says, “ – and believing in Him, have life in His name.”

The gospels record His birth, His life, His ministry, His death, His ascension. The Acts record the preaching about His death and resurrection, suffering, and glory, and establishment of His church, which He is the head. The Epistles explain the doctrinal significance and application of His life and work. Revelation presents Him as the coming Judge who will set up His kingdom on earth and rule forever in eternity.

The New Testament is about Him. “The Spirit will come take of Mine and show it to you.” So we preach the New Testament; it’s about Christ. And then we go back and we compare it with the Old Testament; and that’s what we should be doing.

In Acts 18, there was a preacher by the name of Apollos, and he gives us a kind of a good model, Apollos. It says in Acts 18:28, “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”

Henry’s commentary offers this analysis of being guided ‘into all the truth’:

it is to be intimately and experimentally acquainted with it to be piously and strongly affected with it not only to have the notion of it in our heads, but the relish and savour and power of it in our hearts[;] it denotes a gradual discovery of truth shining more and more: “He shall lead you by those truths that are plain and easy to those that are more difficult.” But how into all truth?

First, Into the whole truth relating to their embassy whatever was needful or useful for them to know, in order to the due discharge of their office, they should be fully instructed in it what truths they were to teach others the Spirit would teach them, would give them the understanding of, and enable them both to explain and to defend.

Secondly, Into nothing but the truth

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would reveal the divine truth to the disciples which would glorify Him as Christ our Lord (verse 14). The New Testament is the fullest source of that truth, which is why it is so important to read and understand it. Furthermore, the more we read it, the greater our understanding.

I despair when people say, ‘I read the New Testament in school. I don’t need to look at it anymore’. How wrong they are. We can read it 100 times and still see something new or be reminded of something we forgot. The Holy Spirit works through us as we read Scripture.

Jesus’s words describe how the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — work for our benefit (verse 15). What is the Father’s is the Son’s and is declared to us via the Spirit, who, as Henry observes:

came not to erect a new kingdom, but to advance and establish the same kingdom that Christ had erected, to maintain the same interest and pursue the same design those therefore that pretend to the Spirit, and vilify Christ, give themselves the lie, for he came to glorify Christ. Secondly, That herein the things of God should be communicated to us. Lest any should think that the receiving of this would not make them much the richer, he adds, All things that the Father hath are mine. As God, all that self-existent light and self-sufficient happiness which the Father has, he has as Mediator, all things are delivered to him of the Father (Matthew 11:27) all that grace and truth which God designed to show us he lodged in the hands of the Lord Jesus, Colossians 1:19.

Henry has a closing thought on this passage, which also serves as a perfect summation of Trinity Sunday:

Spiritual blessings in heavenly things are given by the Father to the Son for us, and the Son entrusts the Spirit to convey them to us.

This is what we remember with thanksgiving on this day, which marks the last great feast in the Church calendar until we celebrate Christmas again.

The Gospel readings for the 2016 Season after Pentecost — sometimes ‘after Trinity’ or ‘Ordinary Time’ — are from St Luke and detail Christ’s ministry of teaching and healing. The liturgical colour is green during this season.

Forbidden Bible Verses resumes next week.

holy_trinity by st andrei rublevSunday, May 31, 2015, is Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Sunday is always the next one after Pentecost.

My 2010 post explains that it was not until St Thomas Becket dedicated the Sunday after Pentecost to the Trinity in 1162 that it became a uniform feast in the Church.

Traditionally, in some denominations, subsequent Sundays until the First Sunday of Advent were referred to as Sundays ‘after Trinity’. Since then, this has changed in favour of Sundays ‘after Pentecost’ or ‘in Ordinary Time’. However, there are a few which have retained the Trinitarian association.

It is important for Christians to explain to their children the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. My 2013 post features the Anglican, Revd Matt Kennedy’s, emphasis on the Bible which enables us to understand how the Holy Trinity helps us in our understanding of divine purpose. My 2012 post details an excellent Lutheran way of explaining the Trinity simply to our children: use an egg.

Along with many other clergy, Kennedy acknowledges that because we do not ‘get God’ as we ‘get’ — understand — the workings of our world, we tend to ignore or deny divine mysteries and truths. My 2012 post highlights his sermon on this topic; it is very useful for those who doubt the existence and doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Today’s Anglican reflection also addresses our reluctance to accept the Trinity.

The late Revd Dr John Hughes, Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge, gave a sermon in 2010 which clarifies the importance of Trinity Sunday. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Trinity Sunday began to be observed in England under St Thomas Becket and then spread to the rest of Western Christendom.  And yet, there is a tradition that this Sunday the task of preaching is a short straw, not a joy and a delight.  Why is this?

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, highest and most central of Christian doctrines has not enjoyed a good reputation in the last century or so.  I remember as a teenager being fascinated by those endless paradoxes in the Athanasian creed: ‘not three eternals, but one eternal, not three uncreated, but one uncreated…’   The whole thing sounded like some great riddle.  And let’s be honest, congregations have a tendency to glaze over when we come to the finer points of doctrinal and philosophical theology.  But the point runs deeper than this: for many in the last hundred years, the doctrine of the Trinity was seen as a later invention of Greek philosophy far removed from the simple faith of the Galilean fishermen.  Sceptics have ridiculed the endless debates in the early Church around that one word ‘homoousion’ – ‘of one being’ as we still say every Sunday in our creed.  The Trinity has been seen as part of the ecclesiastical baggage of dogma and metaphysics to be cast away in the return to the simple faith of Jesus.  Such a view was held by the Unitarians, who have a chapel on Christ’s Pieces.  And for a while such a view seemed to be becoming mainstream amongst New Testament scholars, theologians and even a few Bishops, although I’m glad to say things seem to have changed in recent years.  And of course the rise in interest in Islam, in many ways an early form of Unitarianism, has raised this question again of late.

Hughes’s three points about the Holy Trinity are that 1) Christians believe that God is very much alive and active in each of our lives; 2) He communicates this via Christ’s humanity (in addition to His divinity) in ‘collaboration with humanity’ and 3) we are called, via the presence of the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel.

Whilst I disagree with Hughes’s semi-Pelagian belief that we have a divine presence here on earth (see his third point) — our perfection comes in heavenly afterlife — his conclusion is worthwhile:

So to recap: God is Love, God is personal

Unbelievers do not understand this, and it is one of the most difficult challenges we face when evangelising in greater and lesser ways. So much atheistic propaganda has presented God as perpetually angry and distant, that it is hard to counteract this in conversation with curious unbelievers.

In closing, Hughes died in a car accident in June 2014. A memorial service in thanksgiving for his life took place in October that year at the University Church of Great Saint Mary’s in Cambridge. Professor Janet Soskice, President of Jesus College and Chair of the Faculty Board of Divinity, gave the address:

… John loved the Church of England, its language, prayer books and liturgies, but above all he loved the living church itself. Theologically and liturgically Anglo-Catholic, the services he organised and sermons he preached were never exclusive or cultish, and always deeply informed by his study of Scripture. He inherited from Tim Jenkins and Jonathan Collis, previous Dean and Chaplain, a lively and well-integrated chapel. With Mark Williams, the Director of Music, he oversaw a golden age of Jesus Chapel worship

John emanated unruffled energy. He never appeared to be rushed even while, along with all his chapel and college duties, I knew he was researching, lecturing, publishing and supervising and examining both undergraduate and graduate students. In the Faculty of Divinity he was a highly regarded colleague in theology, philosophy of religion and ethics. Amongst his contemporaries he was widely regarded as the most gifted Anglican theologian of his generation

I have spoken with a number of agnostics who think the Church needs a revival of Christian philosophy. Very few clergy have studied it in depth. It seems to be present among a few Catholic and Anglican priests, but not enough to make a wider difference. From my conversations with agnostics, Christian philosophy would facilitate a sort of applied Christianity which would enable making a greater connection between the New Testament and our lives today.

Readers may agree or disagree with this perspective. However, the Reformed (Calvinist) minister, the Revd Vincent Cheung, has combined the two in a traditional yet thought-provoking series of sermons.

holy_trinity by st andrei rublevThe post-Easter Church calendar concludes with Ascension Thursday, Exaudi Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday.

To find out more about Trinity Sunday, these posts might be of interest:

On Trinity Sunday

A great way to explain the Holy Trinity

Anglican reflections on the Trinity

A practical — and Anglican — reflection for Trinity Sunday

stained glass teaching-scriptures-720641 genxrisingcomTrinity Sunday 2013 falls on May 26.

Last year, I featured excerpts of a Trinity Sunday sermon from the Revd Matt Kennedy, Rector of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York. Mr Kennedy explained various heresies and what makes them so.

I located another sermon of his for today’s post. I do not recall if it is specifically for Trinity Sunday, however, Kennedy makes excellent points on the application of the Holy Trinity in our lives.

At some point in a good number of us — myself included — have come to such an abstraction about the three-in-one Godhead that, if left unchecked, it can be a divine mystery which we neglect.

The Holy Trinity can be difficult to understand and explain; it is a mystery of faith. Yet, we must do our best to understand and apply what we can of this mystery to our daily lives. This is a good way to explain it to children and adolescents; it involves an egg. This post from 2010 explains more about Trinity Sunday and its place in the Church year.

Now on to Kennedy’s sermon which ties us in with the three Persons of the Trinity, the Church and  the Bible. He has more at the link, but this is the excerpt — the practical application in our lives — which caught my eye (emphases mine):

The individual Christian,
the Church
cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the Holy Scriptures.
The scriptures are the words of Christ,
the Son,
and it is the task of the Holy Spirit to glorify the Son
by taking his words
and making them known
not undercutting them.
The Holy Spirit is never, therefore,
never going to contradict the Holy Scriptures.

On the contrary,
if you want to hear the voice of God,
if you want, in your ordinary day to day life,
to feel the presence of God,
to know him,
to be guided by him,
to find out if he loves you and how much,
to figure out what to do with yourself,
how to relate to the people around you,
if that is what you want,
then there is one place to go
and that is the Bible.
And that is because for the believer,
the Holy Spirit’s task is not reveal to new revelations
or new truths to astound our friends,
but to illumine,
to help you understand what has already been so carefully
and perfectly revealed.
He does that supernaturally
through your personal study,
through teachers,
through preachers,
applying those words to your life and to the life of the church.

June 3, 2012 is Trinity Sunday. Yesterday’s post gave a useful way to explain the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity to children and new believers.

The Revd Matt Kennedy, Rector of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York, warns us about heresies concerning the Holy Trinity. What follows are excerpts from his Trinity Sunday sermon from 2010, ‘God’s Self Disclosure’ (emphases mine):

… let me start out by saying two things: 1. The Trinity is not something we made up. Concepts humans make up are very tidy. They may be complex like the combustion engine or the personal computer, but once you get the system everything falls into place. The Trinity is not tidy. It is not a practical, relevant, human-friendly system that once understood will make everything fall into place. That’s because the Trinity is not a human concept thought up by humans for humans. It’s the word humans use for God’s own nature that he has revealed to us. Everyone here can understand the basic facts about the Trinity because God has revealed these basics in a way that is fit for our finite minds, but we’ll never “get God” like we might “get” computers or mechanics, because God is infinite and we’re not.

Which brings me to the second thing: self disclosure is an act of love … the Creator of the Cosmos who owes us nothing and who needs nothing from us, reveals himself to us. Don’t sit back as if the Trinity is some dry dusty esoteric doctrine. It is God’s self disclosure. He’s inviting us to go deeper and to love him more. Christianity is a revealed faith not an intuitive religion. Christians do not take a mystical self-guided journey into the great cosmic yes. God reveals himself to us through his word. That’s an unwarranted unmerited immeasurably valuable gift. How stupid and selfish to be bored by it.

I’ve found that starting with what the Trinity is not, makes it easier to grasp what the Trinity is. So let’s start with four of the most common misunderstandings
Modalism: A couple of months ago someone in ST suggested this analogy for the Trinity. “Just as a single man can simultaneously be a son to his father, a father to his son, and a brother to his sibling so the one God can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” God steps into various roles depending on the circumstances. Sometimes he is the Father, other times, the Son and still others the Holy Spirit.  This is called Modalism.

Take a look at the gospel lesson this morning in John 16:13-15.
“13…when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine.” 

Is there anything in this text that would conflict with modalism? In verse 14 Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will glorify the Son. That requires two distinct persons. The Son and the Spirit are distinct and operating in relationship to each other at the same time. This relationship is impossible unless there are two distinct persons. In verse 15 Jesus mentions the Father. The Father shares everything with the Son: relationship. One person is not jumping into three roles. Three persons are relating simultaneously to each other. You see the same thing in the gospel accounts of the baptism of Jesus. Simultaneously Jesus, the Son, is baptized, the Father speaks “This is my beloved Son” and, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove. All three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, present and actively relating to one another. The New Testament is full of these kinds of events and from them we learn, God tells us, that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct…they are not the same Person.

Arianism: Well then, some will say, if Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, then they can’t all be God because there is only one God. So only the Father is God. Jesus is like a powerful avatar or spirit being. And the Spirit must be like the force in Star Wars, this spiritual energy field that the Father emits. Arius, a famous heretic, taught something like this in the early 4th century but its back in vogue in liberal mainstream protestant circles where Jesus is often depicted as being a super spiritual human so in touch with God that the divine becomes manifest through him—kind of like the Buddha but without all the fasting.

It’s clear enough that the Father is God. But scripture clearly identifies Jesus as God as well.

1. In John 1:1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word Was God”. Well who is the Word? Skipping down to verse 14 of John 1, “and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”  Obviously Jesus is the Word.
2. Jesus himself claims to be God. In John 8:56-58, Jesus has this exchange with Jewish Authorities “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” Those last words “I Am” or “ego eimi”, are the words used in the Greek Old Testament to translate YHWH. The Pharisees understand very clearly what Jesus means because in v. 59, they try to stone him for blasphemy.
3. And finally, Jesus accepts the kind of worship that belongs to God alone. What did Thomas’ say when the risen Jesus showed him his wounds?  “My Lord and My God”. And how did Jesus respond? “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(20:29) The apostles claim Jesus is God, Jesus claims that he is God. Jesus accepts the worship only due to God

Tritheism: So are we saying that there are three Gods? Muslims and JWs believe that we are. In Isa 44:6 we read: “This is what the LORD says…I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” Does the confession that the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God in the New Testament undercut that basic Old Covenant truth? Not at all. The truth that there is only one God that is reaffirmed in the New Testament. Paul writes in 1st Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. And James in 2:19 writes: “You believe that there is one God? You do well. Even the demons believe and shudder”  So the very apostles who proclaimed that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God just as strongly proclaimed that there is only One God.

Tripartism: Well, maybe God is like a giant peace sign with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit coming together as the three sections or parts. That idea doesn’t hold up either. One example will suffice. In Colossians 2:9, Paul writes “9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” The fullness of the deity, all that God is, Jesus is. The Son is not part of God, the Son is fully God and, on the basis of the texts we’ve already looked at, we must say the same is true for the Father and the Spirit
So here’s what we have so far: Scripture reveals, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct persons, not the same. Scripture also reveals that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Holy Spirit is fully God. And Scripture clearly reveals that there is only one God. How do we put this together? On the surface it seems like a contradiction but God does not contradict himself. So we are called to harmonize what he reveals.
That’s what the doctrine of the Trinity accomplishes. God is one in his nature or his essence, his being. God is three in Person …

So why is this keeping this straight important? …

Letting the Trinity go is one of the fastest ways to fall into spiritual danger. Almost all of the heresies—the lies about God that lead people away from the truth, away from Christ—that’s what heresy does, that’s why its so dangerous—at the root reject one or more truths about the Trinity …

It’s less common today for children in Christian schools and at home to learn about heresy. There are several and supposedly newer ones actually derive from the original. As Kennedy mentioned, Arianism is flourishing in ‘liberal’ churches. It certainly is in the Church of England. Jesus is the great socialist collectivist ‘teacher’. Although our churches have crucifixed and commemorate all the great feasts, sermons are reductive socio-political editorials. How many converts did the clergy of St Paul’s Cathedral make during Occupy, which ended — for now — a few months ago? It’s doubtful they made many with their social gospel. Their public pronouncements had little to do with Christ and everything concerning redistribution of wealth by the notional 1%. How sad.

Perhaps they have problems understanding or believing in the Trinity? Now that we have celebrated Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday, let us ensure we remain true to Scripture and Christian doctrines. Heresy really does take us away from the truth of Jesus Christ.

Explaining the Holy Trinity to children and new believers can be difficult. St Patrick was said to have used the shamrock, with its three leaves attached to the same stem.

What follows is another — and for me, more useful — way. It comes from a lady named Sue whose brother is a Lutheran pastor. At the last minute, he was asked to preach on Trinity Sunday at his family’s church because their pastor had laryngitis.  This is how he explained the Holy Trinity (emphases mine):

He set out 3 small bowls. He cracked an egg, separated the white from the yolk, placed them in 2 of the bowls, and the shell in the third. He then asked the children which was the egg (which of course brought out all kinds of interesting responses). He used this illustration to explain the Trinity. I think even the adults in the congregation were enlightened by his talk. The children certainly learned something that day.

The parts of an egg are inseparable — the shell, yolk and white are all component parts. Without any one of them, there would be no egg. The same is true of the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are integral — not three different Gods, but three-in-one.

Tomorrow: An Anglican rector on the correct understanding of the Trinity

May 30, 2010 is Trinity Sunday.  Also known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it falls on the Sunday after Pentecost.   

Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans and (many) Presbyterians celebrate this important feast day honouring the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The celebrant wears white vestments.

Before Vatican II, the feast marked the end of a three-week period in the Catholic Church when weddings were forbidden.  This time period began on the fifth Sunday after Easter — Rogation Sunday — and ended on Trinity Sunday.

Traditionally, the congregation recited the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday.  Now, this is done generally only by religious orders reciting the Divine Office and by orthodox Anglicans in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer.

Subsequent Sundays before Advent in the Church of England are numbered as being ‘after Trinity’.  This is according to the pre-Reformation Sarum Use.  Episcopalians number such Sundays as being ‘after Pentecost’.  Catholics now tend to use the term ‘Ordinary Time’, which begins the Monday after Pentecost.

Trinity Sunday has a special resonance in England, as Thomas Becket was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on this day.  It is a principal feast in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church.  St Thomas Becket’s first act as Archbishop in 1162 was to dedicate this day to the Holy Trinity.  The observance spread from England to the rest of Christendom.

Prior to that, the Church had no particular day devoted to the Holy Trinity.  The Office, which doctors of the Church instituted in response to the Arian heresy, was considered sufficient, as it was recited daily.  In fact, the ancient Micrologies record that this Sunday was designated a Dominica vacans (’empty Sunday’), with no special Office.  When petitioned to dedicate this Sunday to the Trinity, Pope Alexander II declared in the 11th century that the Creed and the Gloria Patri would suffice.  The petition arose because some bishops were already putting aside one Sunday a year to remember the Trinity.  Some used the Office which Stephen Bishop of Liege wrote in the 10th century.  Some places commemorated the Trinity the Sunday before Advent. In the 13th century, a Franciscan — John Peckham — later Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a new Office for this feast.  Finally, a few decades afterward, Pope John XXII decreed that Trinity Sunday would be the Sunday after Pentecost, since it was on Pentecost that the doctrine of the Trinity became manifest to the world.

We cannot hope to ever understand the mystery of three Persons in one God.  It defies human comprehension, hence the reason why it is called a ‘mystery’.  The only ways we can try to comprehend it is through the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as worship and prayer.  David Bennett, writing for, explains:

The Son is said to be eternally begotten of the Father, while the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father through the Son. Each member of the Trinity interpenetrates one another, and each has distinct roles in creation and redemption, which is called the Divine economy. For instance, God the Father created the world through the Son and the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters at creation.

The Nicene definition of the Trinity developed over time, based on Scripture and Tradition. The Scriptures call the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit “God,” yet the three are also clearly distinct …

Ultimately, Trinitarianism posits a dynamic God, whose ultimate nature is beyond human conception, yet who voluntarily operates within the created world. Trinitarianism also shows a loving God that is willing to become as we are so that we may become like Him. The implications of believing in Arius’ God, a God unwilling to involve himself in our redemption, but who instead sent an angel of the highest order, did not escape the earliest Christians. As St. Athanasius was fond of saying “that which has not been assumed has not been redeemed,” meaning that unless God truly became completely human, we could not be fully redeemed, because only God Himself is capable of truly redeeming humanity; an angel does not have this ability. Thus, the Trinity is not about Greek philosophy or pointless metaphysical speculation, but about the heart of our salvation.

As with all great and wondrous divine mysteries, much more can be said.  I’ll pick up on this again next year.

(The icon pictured, by the way, is called The Holy Trinity.  St Andrei Rublev painted it — a rare Eastern Orthodox depiction of the Holy Trinity, using three angels to symbolise the Triune God.  St Andrei used ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’ as his theme.) 

For further reading:

Trinity Sunday – Wikipedia

All About Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday – Catholic Encyclopedia

Thomas Becket

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