Feast of the Holy Trinity

The Trinity is a response by Christians to the rich mystery of the Divine: How to begin to approach it?  Four quotes from Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers of Theology (202-03): “The experience of salvation coming from God through Jesus in the power of the Spirit sets up such a powerful encounter with the Holy that it requires a new language. This language is trinitarian.”  And: “. . .[T]he doctrine has become unintelligible and religiously irrelevant on a wide scale.”  She notes: “Karl Rahner lamented that so weakly does this belief function in the spirituality, theology, and actual faith life of the church that if officials announced that a fourth person of the Trinity had been discovered, it would probably cause little stir.” And finally, “As Walter Kasper bluntly puts it, ‘Trinity is the Christian form of monotheism.’”

Assertions of believers about who God is and how God does are always cultural—invested in the regnant systems of the speakers.  But such understanding is also resistant to the prosaic norms of culture.  It seems clear that in the Old Testament the challenge of naming God was to reduce or refocus the multiplicity toward the more single or monotheistic, no small achievement.  Jesus was of course a product of and participant in that tradition but also enriched it immeasurably, finding so many ways to speak of God and God’s Spirit.  And Jesus’ followers added their insights about the ways in which Jesus imaged God, shared divine life. 

Advertisement

In our day, the challenge may be to correlate our classic Trinitarian experience, belief and language with other ways of talking about being and Being (e.g., postmodern philosophy and physics).  If the Trinity is basically about vital relationship, that seems promising, if challenging.

Barbara Green, O.P.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
8 years 11 months ago
Refreshing to hear someone finally state what so many of us feel.  Congratulations to Sr. Barbara Green, O.P. on her quotes from Sr. Elizabeth Johnson: “. . .[T]he doctrine has become unintelligible and religiously irrelevant on a wide scale.”  She notes: “Karl Rahner lamented that so weakly does this belief function in the spirituality, theology, and actual faith life of the church that if officials announced that a fourth person of the Trinity had been discovered, it would probably cause little stir.”   I would like to see her flesh out her statement:  "If the Trinity is basically about vital relationship, that seems promising, if challenging."

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.

On this week's episode, we talk with Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, Cyrus Habib.
Olga SeguraMay 25, 2018