Trinity: Part Two
Only Emptiness Is Prepared for Fullness
Sunday, May 12, 2019
In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:
His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself.
Could this first stanza from one of the earliest hymns of the church be applied not only to Jesus, but also to the entire Trinity? I believe so. The Three all live as an eternal and generous self-emptying, the Greek word being kenosis.
The Franciscan philosopher/theologian Bonaventure (1221–1274) described the Trinity as a fountain fullness of Love. Picture three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into the Son, nothing held back. The Son empties into the Spirit, nothing held back. The Spirit empties into the Father, nothing held back. The reason they can empty themselves out is they know they will be filled again. They know that the center of the universe is infinite love.
But if you don’t believe that infinite love is the center of the universe, you live in a scarcity model where there’s never enough—food, money, security, health care, mercy—to go around. You can’t risk letting go because you’re not sure you’ll be refilled. If you’re protecting yourself, if you’re securing your own image and identity, then you’re still holding on. Your ego remains full of itself, which is the opposite of kenosis. This is the nature of almost all human institutions and systems created by the egoic mind.
Interestingly, the names, roles, and energies of each member of the Trinity are interchangeable. It’s not that important to typecast the Father as the only infinite one, the Son as the only immanent one, or the Spirit as the only intimate one. All is absolutely given to the other and let go of; but for the sake of human understanding, it’s helpful to identify three persons with different functions and gifts.
When all three of those divine qualities start drawing you, and when you’re at home with Infinity, Immanence, and Intimacy—all Three—you’re living inside Trinitarian spirituality.
I have often noticed these divine qualities in people who are marginalized, oppressed, called “poor,” or “mentally disabled” more than in many others. They have to trust love. They need communion. They know that only the vulnerable people understand them. They want to be in mutual relationship. They find little ways to serve others. They know that only a suffering God can save them.
You can take such a pattern as a sign that one lives in God. People filled with the flow will always move away from any need to protect their own power and will be drawn to solidarity with the powerless, the edge, the bottom, the plain, and the simple. They have all the power they need—and it always overflows, and like water seeks the lowest crevices to fill. No wonder Christians begin their spiritual journey by being dipped into water.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Trinity: The Soul of Creation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), MP4 download; and
Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 90-91.