Theme:
Trinity: Part 1

Trinity: Part 1

Summary: Sunday, May 5—Friday, May 10, 2019

The mystery of Trinity is embedded as the code in everything that exists. (Sunday)

If we take the depiction of God in Rublev’s The Trinity icon seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” (Monday)

Trinity overcomes the foundational philosophical problem of “the One and the Many.” (Tuesday)

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality. (Wednesday)

The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. (Thursday)

God placed this alluring attraction of life toward life in everything that God created. Thus, we might say the Trinity is the soul of creation. (Friday)

 

Practice: Friendship

The Trinity reveals that God is relationship itself. Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue (1956–2008) drew insights on friendship from Celtic spirituality. As you read O’Donohue’s words, consider how you might grow and nurture soul friendships in your life.

. . . The old Gaelic term for [soul-love] is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ċara is the word for friend. . . . With the anam ċara you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. . . . You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul.” . . . The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship. In his Conferences, John Cassian [c. 360–c. 435] says this bond between friends is indissoluble: “This, I say, is what is broken by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part.” [1]

In everyone’s life, there is great need for an anam ċara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn. . . . Where you are understood, you are home. . . . When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul. . . . This art of love discloses the special and sacred identity of the other person. . . .

It is precisely in awakening and exploring this rich and opaque inner landscape that the anam-ċara experience illuminates the mystery and kindness of the divine. The anam ċara is God’s gift. Friendship is the nature of God. The Christian concept of god as Trinity is the most sublime articulation of otherness and intimacy, an eternal interflow of friendship. This perspective discloses the beautiful fulfillment of our immortal longing in the words of Jesus, who said, Behold, I call you friends [John 15:15]. . . . In friendship with him, we enter the tender beauty and affection of the Trinity. In the embrace of this eternal friendship, we dare to be free. . . .

Consequently, love is anything but sentimental. In fact, it is the most real and creative form of human presence. Love is the threshold where divine and human presence ebb and flow into each other.

All presence depends on consciousness. Where there is a depth of awareness, there is a reverence for presence. Where consciousness is dulled, distant, or blind, the presence grows faint and vanishes. Consequently, awareness is one of the greatest gifts you can bring to your friendship. . . . [P]ray for the grace of recognition. Inspired by awareness, you may then discover beside you the anam ċara of whom your longing has always dreamed.

References:
[1] John Cassian, “The First Conference of Abbot Joseph: On Friendship,” Conferences, 16.3. See John Cassian, The Conferences of the Desert Fathers, trans. Edgar C. S. Gibson (Aeterna Press: 2015), 269.

John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (Cliff Street Books: 1997), 13-16.

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala: 2013)

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016)

Richard Rohr: Trinity: The Soul of Creation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), MP4 download

Richard Rohr, The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2004), CD, DVD, MP3 download

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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Trinity: Part 1

Aliveness
Friday, May 10, 2019

Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God. . . . And I saw no difference between God and our substance, but, as it were, all God; and still my understanding accepted that our substance is in God. —Julian of Norwich [1]

I find the “fidget spinner” toy a helpful illustration to understand the Trinity. [2] When still, a fidget spinner clearly has three different lobes; however, when it spins we lose sight of the distinct wings and simply see unbroken movement or flow. Even more significant than the qualities of the individual members of the Trinity is the flow between them. At the Trinitarian level, God is a verb more than a noun, God is a flow more than a substance, God is an experience more than a deity sitting on a throne. And we live naturally inside that flow of love—if we do not resist it.

Infinite love is planted within humans and all of creation. Everything is attracted to everything: life is attracted to life; love is attracted to love; God in you is attracted to God in everyone and everything else. This is what it means for everything to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God placed this alluring attraction of life toward life in everything that God created. Thus, we might say the Trinity is the soul of creation.

Once we allow the entire universe to become alive for us, we are living in an enchanted world. Nothing is meaningless; nothing can be dismissed. It’s all whirling with the same beauty, the same radiance. In fact, if I could name the Big Bang in my own language, I’d call it the Great Radiance. The inner radiance of God started radiating at least 13.8 billion years ago. We must realize that we are the continuation of that radiance in our small segment of time on Earth. We can either allow it and let the Trinitarian Flow flow through us or we can deny it, which is to deny the divine image.

This is nothing I can prove to you. This is nothing I can make logical or rational. It can only be known experientially in the mystery of love when you surrender yourself to it, when you grant subjectivity or a blessed I-Thou relationship to every other thing—a plant, an animal, a single tree, the big blue sky, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” as my Father Francis of Assisi put it. The contemplative mind refuses to objectify things. It sees similarity, likeness, symbolism, communion, connection, and meaning everywhere. It becomes a fully symbolic universe. Use whatever words you want, but with this vision you will live in a fully alive and congenial universe where you can never be lonely again.

References:
[1] Julian of Norwich, Showings, Chapter 54 (Long text), trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 285.

[2] You can see and play with a digital fidget spinner here https://www.google.com/search?q=spinner.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Trinity: The Soul of Creation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), MP4 download.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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Trinity: Part 1

God Is Relationship
Thursday, May 9, 2019

We owe a great deal of Western thinking to the Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle (384–322 BCE). Aristotle taught that there were ten different qualities to all things, including “substance” and “relationship.”

Substance is that which is “independent” of all else and can stand on its own. Aristotle ranked substance as the highest quality. In early Christian traditions, the West tried to build on Aristotle to prove that this God whom we had come to understand as Trinitarian was a substance. We didn’t want an ephemeral old relationship God, you know. We wanted a substantial God whom we could prove was as good as anybody else’s God!

Yet, when Jesus called himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship. Who you are is who you are in the Father, as he would put it. That is your meaning and your identity. Jesus says to his Father, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).

Humans are not independent substance, nor is any part of creation; it all exists in radical relationship—ecosystems, orbits, cycles, and circulatory systems. To the Western mind, this “mere” relationship looks like second or third best to being self-made and independent.

In the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine (354–430) described Trinity as God in three substances united as one. By the next century, God is one substance who happens to have three relationships. Aquinas (1225–1274) comes along in the thirteenth century saying that God is one substance, but the relationships constitute the very nature of that substance, subsistent relationship. Now we are prepared to say that God is not, nor does God need to be, “substance” in the Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else. God is relationship itself.

I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship. As long as you show up with some degree of vulnerability, the Spirit can keep working. Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin.

We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 44-47.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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Trinity: Part 1

The Power of Giving and Receiving
Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Christians will continually misinterpret and misuse Jesus if we don’t understand the circle dance of mutuality and communion that he participated in from all eternity (which we call “Christ”). Instead, we made Jesus into a monarchical “Christ the King,” a title he rejected in his lifetime (John 18:37), and we operate as if God’s interest in creation or humanity only began 2,000 years ago. Both Western and Eastern Christianity made the one who described himself as “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29) into an imperial God. The Greek Zeus became the Latin Deus.

What if we actually surrendered to the inner Trinitarian flow and let it be our primary teacher? Our notion of society, politics, and authority—which is still top down and outside in—would utterly change. But circles are much more threatening than pyramids are, at least to empires, the wealthy, and the patriarchal system. Yet “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:13) was supposed to be our circular and all-inclusive ecology. This relational reality existed from the very beginning as revealed in the very first lines of the Bible. There we already have God (Creator), Christ (God made manifest as “light”), and Holy Spirit “hovering over the chaos” (see Genesis 1:1-3) to awaken it—which is still happening.

Trinitarian theology says that spiritual power is more circular or spiral, not so much hierarchical. It’s here; it’s within us. It’s shared and shareable; it’s already entirely for us and grounded within us. What hope this gives! “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” (Romans 5:5). God’s Spirit is planted within us and operating as us! Don’t keep looking to the top of the pyramid. Stop idolizing the so-called “1 percent.” There’s nothing worthwhile up there that is not also down here. Worst of all, it has given 99 percent of the world an unnecessary and tragic inferiority complex.

Trinity shows that God’s power is not any kind of domination, threat, or coercion. If the Father does not dominate the Son, and the Son does not dominate the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit does not dominate the Father or the Son, then there’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous power. This God is not seeking control, as we do, but handing on the power to the Other.

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in marriage, in culture, in church, and across borders. The prophet Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.” [1] He was trying to train them in being “light to all nations” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), but Hebrew history predicted what Christianity then repeated: human nature prefers kings, domination, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.

We all already have all the power (dynamis) we need both within us and between us—in fact, Jesus assures us that we are already “clothed” in it “from on high” (see Luke 24:49)! The Holy Spirit redefines power from the inside out and from the bottom up—just the opposite of most human cultures. This is why the Gospel is so seldom understood or lived.

References:
[1] See Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity, disc 5 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2004), CD, DVD, MP3 download; and

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 95-96.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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Trinity: Part 1

From Disconnection to Connection
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

I’m convinced that beneath the ugly manifestations of our present evils—political corruption, ecological devastation, warring against one another, hating each other based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality—the greatest dis-ease facing humanity right now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection. We feel disconnected from God, certainly, but also from ourselves (especially our bodies), from each other, and from our world. Our sense of this fourfold isolation is plunging our species into increasingly destructive behavior and much mental illness.

Yet many are discovering that the Infinite Flow of the Trinity—and our practical, felt experience of this gift—offers the utterly grounded reconnection with God, with self, with others, and with our world that all spirituality, and arguably, even politics, is aiming for, but which conventional religion and politics fail to access.

Trinity overcomes the foundational philosophical problem of “the One and the Many.” Serious seekers invariably wonder how things can be both deeply connected and yet clearly distinct. In the paradigm of Trinity, we have three autonomous “Persons,” as we call them, who are nevertheless in perfect communion, given and surrendered to each other with an Infinite Love. With the endless diversity in creation, it is clear that God is not at all committed to uniformity but instead desires unity—which is the great work of the Spirit—or diversity overcome by love. Uniformity is mere conformity and obedience to law and custom; whereas spiritual unity is that very diversity embraced and protected by an infinitely generous love. This is the problem that our politics and most superficial religion are still unable to resolve.

Trinity is all about relationship and connection. We know the Trinity through experiencing the flow itself, which dissolves our sense of disconnection. The principle of one is lonely; the principle of two is oppositional and moves us toward preference and exclusion; the principle of three is inherently moving, dynamic, and generative. Trinity was made to order to undercut all dualistic thinking. Yet Christianity shelved it for all practical purposes because our dualistic theologies could not process it. [1]

God is not a being among other beings, but rather the Ground of Being itself which then flows through all beings. As Paul says to the intellectuals in Athens, this God “is not far from us, but is the one in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). The God whom Jesus reveals is presented as unhindered dialogue, a positive and inclusive flow, and a waterwheel of outpouring love that never stops! St. Bonaventure (c. 1221–1274) called God a “fountain fullness” of love. [2]

Our sense of disconnection is only an illusion. Nothing can stop the flow of divine love; we cannot undo the eternal pattern even by our worst sin. God is always winning, and God’s love will finally win in the end. Nothing humans can do can stop the relentless outpouring force that is the divine dance. Love does not lose, nor does God lose. That’s what it means to be God!

References:
[1] See Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (Shambhala: 2013); and The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of Trinity (CAC: 2004), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

[2] Bonaventure, Commentary on the First Book of Sentences, dist. 27, p. 1, a. un., q. 2. Cited in Introduction to Bonaventure: The Soul’s Journey into God; The Tree of Life; The Life of St. Francis, trans. Ewert Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 25.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: Exploring the Mystery of Trinity, discs 2 and 3 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2004), CD, MP3 download; and

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 39-40, 42, 43, 61, 75.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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Trinity: Part 1

Take Your Place at the Table
Monday, May 6, 2019

In Genesis, we see the divine dance in an early enigmatic story (18:1-8). “The Lord” appears to Abraham as “three men” or “three angels,” and Abraham and Sarah seem to see the Holy One in the presence of these three; they bow before them and call them “lord” (18:2-3, Jerusalem Bible). Abraham and Sarah’s first instinct is one of invitation and hospitality—to create a space of food and drink for the guests. Here we have humanity feeding God; it will take a long time to turn that around in the human imagination, to believe that we, too, could be invited to the divine table.

This story inspired a piece of devotional religious art by iconographer Andrei Rublev (c. 1360–c. 1430): The Hospitality of Abraham, or simply The Trinity. As icons do, this painting attempts to point beyond itself, inviting a sense of both the beyond and the communion that exists in our midst.

There are three significant colors in Rublev’s icon, each illustrating a facet of the Holy One:

Gold: “the Father”—perfection, fullness, wholeness, the ultimate Source

Blue: “the Incarnate Christ”—both sea and sky mirroring one another (In the icon, Christ wears blue and holds up two fingers, telling us he has put spirit and matter, divinity and humanity, together within himself. The blue of creation is undergirded with the red of suffering.)

Green: “the Spirit”—the divine photosynthesis that grows everything from within by transforming light into itself (Hildegard of Bingen [1098–1179] called this viriditas, or the greening of all things.)

The icon shows the Holy One in the form of Three, eating and drinking, in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves. If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them as they all share from a common bowl. Notice the Spirit’s hand points toward the open and fourth place at the table! Is the Holy Spirit inviting, offering, and clearing space? I think so! And if so, for what, and for whom?

At the front of the table there appears to be a little rectangular hole. Most people just pass right over it, but some art historians believe the residue of possible glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. It’s stunning when you think about it: There was room at this table for a fourth—the one in the mirror.

The observer.

You!

Yes, you—and all of creation—are invited to sit at the divine table, to participate in the divine dance of mutual friendship and love.

The mirror seems to have been lost over the centuries, both in the icon and in our on-the-ground understanding of who God is—and therefore who we are, too!

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 28-31.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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Trinity: Part 1

Trinity: MIA
Sunday, May 5, 2019

Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (1904–1984) suggested that “Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists.’ We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” [1]

Until quite recently, I would admit Rahner was largely correct. Now science affirms the Trinitarian intuition that the foundational nature of reality is relational; everything is in relationship with everything! Interest and appreciation for the Trinity are growing. [2] For the first time since fourth-century Cappadocia, the Trinity has actually become a topic of conversation for lay people, not only theologians. I am so glad, as the Trinity has the potential to change our relationships, our culture, and our politics for the better!

The mystery of Trinity is embedded as the code in everything that exists. If there is only one God and if there is one pattern to this God, then we can expect to find this same pattern everywhere else. Why was Trinity missing in action for so many centuries? Could this absence help us understand how we might still be in the infancy stage of Christianity? Could it help explain the ineffectiveness and lack of transformation we witness in so much of Christendom?

The “Blessed Trinity” is supposed to be the central Christian doctrine. And yet many of us were told—as I was as a young boy in Kansas—that we shouldn’t try to understand it because it’s a “mystery.”

I see mystery not as something you cannot understand; rather, it is something that you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say, “I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you! In the same way, you don’t hold God in your pocket; rather, God holds you and knows your deepest identity.

When we describe God, we can only use similes, analogies, and metaphors. All theological language is an approximation, offered tentatively in holy awe. We can say, “It’s like . . .” or “It’s similar to . . .”; but we can never say with absolute certainty, “It is . . .” because we are in the realm of beyond, of transcendence, of mystery. We absolutely must maintain humility before the Great Mystery; otherwise, religion worships itself and its formulations instead of God.

The very mystical Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and Basil of Caesarea) of fourth-century eastern Turkey eventually developed some highly sophisticated thinking on what the Christian church soon called the Trinity. It took three centuries of reflection on the Gospels to have the courage to say it and offer the best metaphor they could find. The Greek word they daringly used was perichoresis or circle dance.

Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance of love. God is Absolute Friendship. God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself. This pattern mirrors the perpetual orbit of electron, proton, and neutron that creates every atom, which is the substratum of the entire physical universe. Everything is indeed like “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).

References:
[1] Karl Rahner, The Trinity (Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 10-11.

[2] For example, see Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala: 2013); and William Paul Young, The Shack (Windblown Media: 2007).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2004), CD, DVD, MP3 download; and

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 26-27.

Image credit: Rublev Troitsa (detail), Andrei Rublev, c. 1400–1410, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” The gaze between the Three shows the deep respect between them. —Richard Rohr
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