The mystery at the heart of human life is discovered in our relationships, whose outlines might be simply explained but that are ineffable at the core. How we love and live for one another defies description. We struggle for words to make real what we know through experience. When one of my sons as a small boy told me, “I want you to live longer than anyone else,” he expressed his love as a desire that our lives together should continue on and on without end. This being for and with one another takes us to the mystery of Christian life.
God in Christianity is a supernatural mystery; and in the depth of God’s mysterious being, we discover the reality of the Trinity. God exists in relationship as Trinity and God exists in relationship with humanity, telling us through our very creation that God wants our lives together to continue on and on without end.
In Scripture, the reality of God as Trinity is revealed through the language of relationship. In the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom describes herself as God’s “craftsman...his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth.” While Wisdom is not necessarily identified with a particular person of the Trinity, Proverbs expresses the reality of God in communication, who takes joy in creation. This delight points to the gratuitousness of creation, for the God who exists in perfect communion as triune lacks nothing, but brings humanity into being for God’s and our good pleasure. These same mysteries appear more fully in the New Testament, not as doctrinal or creedal statements, but as the reality of God experienced in the lives of the first believers.
Paul’s words to the Romans outline the nature of God by virtue of the relationship Paul has entered into with the living God. Paul explains that Christians have gained “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith.” Later Paul states that “we boast in hope of the glory of God...and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Within this short passage, Paul has mentioned the relationships among God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and how through them we are given peace, hope and love. Though the word trinity is never mentioned, the Trinity reveals itself to Paul through the experience of God’s being.
Jesus spoke of God’s relational essence as he prepared the apostles for his departure. The Holy Spirit would guide the disciples “to all truth.” But this truth that the Spirit speaks, Jesus says, is not the Spirit’s “own” but is intended to enlighten believers and to glorify Jesus and the Father as well, for “everything that the Father has is mine.” In perfect communion, the Trinity, three persons in one nature, reveals the mystery of perfect relationship: giving of oneself perfectly for the other, in order to bring all of us into the glory of God.
Even with this revelation of God’s inner life and God’s love poured out for us, it is impossible to truly describe in rational terms the nature of the Trinity. It is the revelation itself of the Trinity, and the experience of the Trinity, that makes it real for us, however we struggle to describe that God is three persons in one nature, that one person became human for us and that God desires that we share in the life of the Trinity.
Still, there is a parallel with human relationships and the way we come to know human beings. We can describe the visible form of persons, the behaviors that show who they are, but it is in being with them that we experience their essence, which concepts and words cannot capture. It is simply that in their presence one experiences love that in a moment becomes unending. God delights in these moments within the eternity of the triune mystery and for reasons that are inexplicable invites us to share in this life forever.