Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

6/19/11-Homily-Trinity Sunday

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity A – June 19, 2011 – Father’s Day

Ex 34:4b-6,8-9, Dan 3:52-56, 2 Cor 13:11-13, John 3:16-18

Complete New American Bible Texts for Today

If you are a Mets, Yankee or Red Sox fan chances are at the ballpark you might see someone holding up a sign that reads John 3:16. We just heard that verse. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, this passage is a traditional reference to the triune God. The word Trinity is not found in the bible; so these words are important.

Today is the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I know you lay awake each night trying to understand how three persons are packed into one God. It is one of those mysterious articles of faith. Still, we constantly refer to the Trinity especially in church. We bless and baptize ourselves using the Trinitarian formula. We greet one another at the beginning of our liturgy with the words taken from today’s second reading, “The grace of Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Spirit be with all of you.”

The scripture scholar Reginald Fuller says, although not clearly expressed, the doctrine of the Trinity is found in sacred scripture. Fuller writes, the holy spirit prompts believers to have faith in Jesus Christ as the one in whom God has acted. [1]

So how do we imagine this Triune God acting in our lives? Is it that of a male parent (a Father)? A revolutionary Jew (the Son)? A dove (the Holy Spirit)? Somewhat humorously, theologian Sandra Schneider describes this image of the Trinity as two men and a bird. Are there other ways to relate to the Trinity in our church, in the world — beyond a conventional understanding of this Triune God?

Most often we tend to distinguish the three persons and connect to one or two favorites. Many Christians have wonderful relations with the first person – God the creator. The Israelites never uttered the word God but today we call God by many names: Father, Mother, Creator, Lover, Navigator. Other Christians focus on Jesus, the second person, the historic revelation or manifestation of God. They see Jesus as friend, brother, miracle worker, and, of course, savior. Some have a devotion to the Spirit. Thought of as a strong but gentle wind, this third person gifts and moves us along day by day.

Theologian Elizabeth Johnson suggests that we could be missing out on something by relating only to a popular but limited idea of the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit acting individually. The early Christians did not think in these terms. They experienced, in one God, the ongoing gifts of the Spirit which were connected to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. [2]

Johnson proposes that a contemporary appreciation of the triune Godhead might be found in rethinking how each person (of the Trinity) is an integral part of one composition.

I think musical notes can help us grasp this idea. With Marie’s [3] help on the piano, think of the first person of the Trinity as one musical note (The C note is played). The second person as another note. (The E note is played) The third person as still another. (The G note is played) Played together as one chord we can imagine each person of the Trinity as familiar notes in a favorite song. (The entire C chord is played)

We can also hear an interdependence taking place. Listen now and imagine all three persons in one God as an infinite whirlwind of sound that embraces and loves us. (The entire C chord is played up and down the keyboard) 

By relating to one person, say God the creator or father or mother, we are also relating to the second person (Jesus Christ) and the third (Spirit). None of these three persons, although distinct, can be thought of as acting in our lives independently of the other. Creation, redemption and gifting are the actions of the one Trinity and each person within it at the same time. Pray to the Father, or the Son or the Holy Spirit and you get all three whether you like it or not. Scholars refer to these divine actions as the “economy of salvation.” For you and me … its a bargain we cannot pass up.

______

1 Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. Third Edition (Collegevile: Liturgical Press) 2006. pp. 109-112

2 Johnson, Elizabeth A. Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God. (NY: Continuum) 2008, 205 ff.

3 Marie Bernadette is director of liturgy and music at St. Vincent de Paul’s parish

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “6/19/11-Homily-Trinity Sunday

  1. This is an excellent homily. This is the first time I ‘ve heard the discussion of the Trinity in such detail . I gave me pause to think more about the Trinity

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  2. Reading this from Saint Xavier University in Chicago where we Sisters of Mercy are gathered for our Institute Chapter. It is so good to read your words since I miss St. V’s!
    Kudos for helping us wrestle with the “three persons” conundrum. I appreciated your idea of the chord for helping me understand. And thanks for using Elizabeth Johnson and her Quest book. I read her response to the Bishops on NCR and, having relished the book, I found the response enriching, and appreciate your holding her up for our consideration. Pray for Elizabeth, the RSMs, and see you after the Fourth of July.

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  3. Sandra Schneider and Elizabeth Johnson in one post – bravo Richard, thank you. What a fine homily. As always you give us something but you also ask us to think and be engaged with our faith, thank you.

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