Three Persons in One God

Today is the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity is, at one and the same time, a fundamental doctrine of Christianity and an unappreciated one. Michael Himes suggests that the Trinity “not one doctrine among others,” but “the whole of Christian doctrine,” even as he laments that for many people, the Trinity is not a doctrine that makes a difference in their lives.

There is no question that it is difficult for people to intellectually apprehend exactly what it means to say there are three persons in one God. A number of Christian mystics have tried over the years to share their experience of the Trinity.

Here is Hildegard of Bingen’s description of a vision she had:

Then I saw a bright light, and in this light the figure of a man the color of sapphire, which was all blazing with a gentle glowing fire. And that bright light bathed the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathed the bright light; and the bright light and the glowing fire poured over the whole human figure, so that the three were one light in one power of potential.

Having seen this, she heard what she called the Living Light explain to her:

Therefore you see a bright light, which without any flaw of illusion, deficiency, or deception designates the Father, and in this light the figure of a man the color of a sapphire, which without any flaw of obstinacy, envy, or iniquity designates the Son, who was begotten of the Father in Divinity before time began, and then within time was incarnate in the world in Humanity; which is all blazing with a gentle glowing fire, which fire without any flaw of aridity, mortality, or darkness designates the Holy Spirit, by whom the Only-Begotten of God was conceived in the flesh and born of the Virgin.

And with respect to the lights and figure bathing each other, Hildegard was told,

This means that the Father, who is Justice, is not without the Son or the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit, who kindles the hearts of the faithful, is not without the Father or the Son; and the Son, who is the plenitude of fruition, is not without the Father or the Holy Spirit. They are inseparable in Divine Majesty.

Through this vision, Hildegard experienced in a real way God’s existence as Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, “inseparable in Divine Majesty.”

Here is Hildegard’s depiction of the image she saw:

Blessings on this Trinity Sunday.


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