Today is what we sometimes call “Trinity Sunday,” – the celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
The Trinity is one of the doctrines of Christianity it is not very easy to explain. What does it mean to say that “there are three Persons in one God”? When I memorized that line in Catholic grade school, they showed up a picture of a shamrock. I confess that in my head, what I heard when I thought of the Trinity was I “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub.” (OK – my theology was not all that sophisticated in first and second grade.)
Michael Himes, who has a way of explaining difficult ideas very simply, suggests that the best way to understand the Trinity is by the statement in the First Letter of John that God is love. The love in John’s Letter is the Greek agape (as opposed to the other forms of the word love sometimes used in the Gospel – the Greek eros or phileo. Himes writes:
We say that God is the peculiar kind of love known as agape, perfect self-gift. To put this in other words, the First Letter of John claims that if one wants to know how to think about God, God is least wrongly thought of as a particular kind of relationship among persons, specifically the relationship of perfect self-gift. Now, that is a remakable claim: God is least wrongly to be thought of as a relationship, as what happens between and among persons.
St. Augustine speaks of the Trinity in similar terms, speaking of the Trinity in terms of God as Love, Beloved and the Love between them. The Trinity thus conveys the truth that God exists in a relationship of love.
Thus, when God the Trinity says in Genesis, “Let us make man in our image,” the image in which we are created is one of a community of love. We know God most fully, we are most fully who we were created to be, when we live in loving communion. And that, I think, helps explain why Michael Himes suggests that the Trinity “not one doctrine among others,” but “the whole of Christian doctrine.”
Blessings on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.