What difference does the Trinity make?

When I was a child, I thought of the Trinity as something of a celestial committee. There was God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The last character used to be called God the Holy Ghost, but, about the same time that the Beatles came to America, he decided to change his name to Holy Spirit.

I didn’t want to offend any one of the committee members through neglect, so I assigned each of them two days of the week, in which I would direct my prayer to him. Of course there are seven days of the week, so I gave one of them to the Blessed Virgin. I was covered.


Sadly, many Christians share my youthful perception of the Trinity. It seems so superfluous. The acclaimed Neapolitan novelist Elena Ferrante perfectly capture this attitude in her wonderful story of childhood companions, My Brilliant Friend (2012). Growing up in post-war Naples, Elena is one of the few smart girls and is chosen for high school studies. Her even-smarter friend, Lila, is not, as she is needed at home. When Elena shares what she is learning in high school religion, Lila finds it meaningless in comparison to crawling out of poverty. Already a young Communist, to her mind

the human condition was so obviously exposed to the blind fury of chance that to trust in a God, a Jesus, the Holy Spirit—this last a completely superfluous entity, it was there only to make up a trinity, notoriously nobler than the mere binomial father-son—was the same thing as collecting trading cards while the city burns in the fires of hell.

Lila has a point. Christians profess the Trinity, but, let us admit, we don’t know what to make of it. How does this mystery of the Godhead impact our lives? What difference does it make?

I want to say, it causes us to rethink ourselves, to see our own humanity as lying open to mystery. To profess God to be a trinity of persons is say that God is not a fact, which we master, but a personhood, whom we encounter, and, like all other persons, to encounter God is not superfluity but rather superabundance. Our knowledge of God never exhausts who God is, because as a person, as the basis of our human personhood, God is an ocean depth of mystery.

There’s a delightful little passage from My Brilliant Friend, which captures the sheer depth of human encounter. To love another is to drown in abundance. We never exhaust the other, never find the bottom of his or her person. Elena remembers walking the streets of Naples with Lila.

We were twelve years old, but we walked along the hot streets of the neighborhood, amid the dust and flies that the occasional old trucks stirred up as they passed, like two old ladies taking the measure of lives of disappointment, clinging tightly to each other. No one understood us, only we two—I thought—understood one another.

A single person can become all the world to another, because there is a depth, a transcendence, to our humanity. You can’t draw a line around our persons and say, “This is where we begin, and this is where we end.” To love another is to know abundance. “No one understood us, only we two—I thought—understood one another.”

The rich receptivity of our humanity mirrors the transcendence of the Trinity. God doesn’t simply encounter us in love. God is an encounter of love. God is an ocean depth of exchange and delight. God is love content.

When the Lord established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race (Proverbs 8: 27-31).

To love another is to enter a world that never exhausts itself, never goes down into entropy. Don’t tell a bride and groom you hope that their love will be always as strong as on the day of their wedding. It should grow fiercer in each day of encounter. True love is an abundance. That’s why love is the great cipher to the meaning of the universe, which, we Christians say, is love itself, the Most Holy Trinity.

Does that make a difference in the streets? Does this mystery have a meaning for humans? It depends. The Trinity doesn’t exist to be examined. It exists to be embraced by us, and we exist to be enfolded by it. But how do we open ourselves to the mystery of the Trinity? By opening to the mystery of ourselves.

Proverbs 8: 22-31  Romans 5: 1-5  John 16: 12-15

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Bruce Snowden
2 years 8 months ago
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “theology of God.” By that I mean having an existing structure within which one may reflect on, or study, the nature of God not revealed in Scripture, but presumably observable through natural effects. How about doing so by focusing on a single Divine Attribute, “Consistency” understanding however, that there are no separations in Divine Attributes, all are equally one and one equals all. However, for the purpose of this post I single out the one mentioned. Clearly God is consistent in all he says and does, linking one thing to the other, reconnecting back to its Source, God. “Superfluity or Superabundance” by Father Terrance W. Klein, who always writes spiritually uplifting essays are spiritual High Fives I love reading! The one at hand deals with the Blessed Trinity, One God in Three Persons Who is, I suggest, an Evolutionary Being, by nature “evolving” or using the acceptable word, “proceeding” One from the Other, in an ongoing process without beginning, without end. This being the presumed nature of God we see Attributal Consistency demonstrated in physical creation, evolving, or proceeding, one thing from the other Trinitarian-like, in an ongoing, unfinished creation that unlike its Creator, will end in an ongoing, unfinished, condition. God never ends, is never unfinished, is everlasting and ongoing, unmovable, unmoving, yet ever on the move. Once I asked a priest what would heaven be like. His answer, “Something new everyday.” God’s desire to “know” is as insatiable as He is. This despite the fact that God is total knowledge in and of Himself. This theory, or whatever it may be called – “utter nonsense” perhaps, in (Proverbs 8: 27-31) used by Father Klein in his essay, I see sketched something of what I am trying to say, using its “I” references to mean evolution, set free and under the Evolutionary Spirit that is God in Trinity, doing its creation thing, as in Proverbs first line, “When the Lord established the heavens, I was there.” And so on. Is this simply foolishness, or is it possible that there’s something “there” but needing better explanation? Is there anyone who has written extensively along these lines? Maybe someone may be saying that a hard copy of this post would make an excellent covering for the inside of a bird cage? Speculation has always been for me both boundless and shackling! Father Klein says, "The Trinity doesn't exist to be examined." Respectfully, for want of a better word, "examination"is exactly what this post proposes.


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