The Trinity

“ Trinitarian theology says that true power is circular or spiral, not so much hierarchical. If the Father does not dominate the Son, and the Son does not dominate the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit does not dominate the Father or the Son, then there’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power.” —Richard Rohr in The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House), pp. 95-96.

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Robert Farrar Capon says that when humans try to describe God, we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina. But we can’t help but try, especially as we strive to understand the doctrine of the Trinity, perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith.

A Greek Orthodox bishop, Timothy Kallistos, at a lecture at a summer course at Oxford University, introduced us to Andrei Rublev’s 15th-century icon, The Trinity, or The Hospitality of Abraham. It pictures the three angels who visited Abraham at the Oak of Mamre (Gen. 18:1-8) to announce the coming birth of his son, Isaac. It has been interpreted as a symbol to help visualize the mystery of the interrelationship in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of the figures is in a circular harmony with the other, humbly pointing to each of the others with mutual love. If we relate only to the Trinity in its separate parts, we miss the mark. The Persons are in community, transparent to each other, indwelling one another, in love with each other. They have no secrets from one another, no jealousy, no rivalry. They are teaching us how to live in community. Barbara Brown Taylor describes their relationship as the sound of “three hands clapping.”

The doctrine of the Trinity calls us to a radical reorientation in our way of seeing and living in the world. We are what we are in relationship with. The God of the Trinity is not an I, but a we; not mine, but ours. Our belief in and understanding of the Trinity can definitely make a difference in how we drive our cars; how we fill out our tax returns; how we relate to others of different faiths, colors, and political views; how we stand in relation to war; how we treat the person sitting across the aisle from us, as well as those living across the Interstate and outside our country’s borders.

Richard Rohr’s and Barbara Brown Taylor’s thoughts are excellent to mediate on when we are having a conflict with another person, when the Christ within us is having difficulty seeing the Christ in another.

[See Barbara Brown Taylor, “Three Hands Clapping” in Home By Another Way (Cowley), pp. 151-154.]