Life in the Trinity
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).
Why did God create the universe? That is a question that an eight year old asked me the other day. Children ask the best questions. Why? Do you think he was bored? You can imagine God sitting around for eternity, alone, twiddling his thumbs. That would be boring but is an absurd idea. God is perfection itself. Perfection is perfect. It does not lack anything. It does not need anything. So why did God create the universe? He created the universe because he is love itself. God is love so dynamic and fertile, like a cup overflowing, that the universe is nothing other than that love poured outside itself. The name of this love is Trinity.
Trinity Sunday should challenge us. In Egypt, a 13th century manuscript was discovered. Written in Coptic, the manuscript reads, “Life begins with the Trinity, and its end and aim is the Trinity.” Though so simple, this says it all. Our whole life ought to begin and end in the Trinity. Do we live this way?
A theologian once noticed how little the doctrine affects the lives of modern Christians. We profess a belief in the Trinity. We live as practical monotheists. He went so far as to suggest that for most Christians, if you were to erase the whole confusing doctrine of Trinity, their lifestyles would go on without notable difference. Is this true? Can you think of why the Trinity matters to you, on a practical level, in your daily life? Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and we are forced to ask these questions. Trinity Sunday should challenge us. We should walk out of this church today inspired to live a different life.
The Fathers of the Church described the Trinity with a word: perichoresis. It is a big word and intimidating, but is in fact very simple and beautiful. You can break it down. Peri means: ‘around.’ Choresis means: ‘moving’ or ‘interpenetrating.’ Choresis is the root of ‘choreography.’ It implies a sort of dancing in fact. Within God the Trinity, is this eternal dance. He is constant movement of love shared between three persons, love that is real, creative, and powerful.
If you look at nature you see perichoresis in everything. The largest and smallest stars all draw one another into a sort of dance. They’re held together and influenced by a gravitational perichoresis. Now, go all the way down to the microscopic level. Think of cells in a body, of all the communication and interaction between the protons and electrons. Go farther still to the quantum realm. Scientists talk about a sort of spooky interaction between subatomic cells. Once they come into contact with one another, their movement influences one another even at great distances. This perichoresis, this love making, is the DNA of creation. It is the stamp of God the Trinity.
To the same degree, the Trinity must be written in our hearts. Every healthy relationship is an icon of the Trinity. Every healthy community has the DNA of the Trinity. This perichoresis, this love and communion, is the essence of our religion. Jesus Christ was not wasting his breath when he prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21). The Trinity is three unique persons in one loving relationship. So we too must, in our own unique and individual ways, become one loving body.
St. Paul urges the Church: “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16). As quaint as this may sound, it sums up our life in Christ. This is our calling in the Church. This is our calling in the parish. St. Paul expands on this in his letter to the Corinthians.
“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (I Cor. 12:5).
“There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:25-27).
The modern Church is plagued by a “me and Jesus” mentality. I read in a commentary this week, a wise statement: “Biblical Christianity is personal…and intimate, but it is not private, individualistic, and isolated.” The moment our faith is cut away from the Body, it is no longer a Christian faith.
Why must we go to confession? The sacrament of confession is the core of Christianity. Since the first century, Christians came to look at confession as the glue that keeps the Church together. In Orthodoxy, this is our bread and butter. Yet, in 21st century America, confession feels superfluous. We have been so influenced by secular culture, that we have forgotten our need for confession. Why do the saints and fathers stress confession so passionately? "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21). Confession is our return to the dance. As every sin severs us from the body of Christ, every confession restores us. Confession brings our gravity back into proper orbit, back into the perichoresis.
The Holy Trinity is the way. “Life begins with the Trinity, and its end and aim is the Trinity.” In every relationship, in confession, in prayer, with every step and breath, we must learn to walk in the Trinity. May God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost imprint the stamp of Holy Trinity firmly in our souls.