Live the Mystery of the Trinity

June 11,  The Congregational Church of Easton

Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday.   The Unison Prayer of Invocation started with the words, “Triune God.”  Someone asked me what “Triune” means.  The person was not familiar with that word. 

It occurred to me that many of you may not have a very clear understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity – the idea that God is both one and three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  When you think of it, how is that possible?  How can something be both one and three at the same time?  It’s pretty hard to understand.

The Unitarians gave up on the attempt to understand how God could be both three and one.  They threw out the whole doctrine of the Trinity.  It didn’t make sense to their rational minds.

Father Richard Rohr says we can’t understand the Trinity with our rational minds.  Father Rohr is a Franciscan Priest who has long been one of my teachers.  I read his daily meditations every day.  Let me read you one of those meditations, entitled, “Living in the Flow.”  It’s long, and I will use it as the text for this meditation.

The Trinity can only be understood with the contemplative mind. It is only God in you that understands; your small mind cannot….  The Trinity can’t be proved rationally. You must experience its flow in your life on different levels: You must have moments where you know that a Big Life is happening in you (Holy Spirit), yet beyond you (Father), and also as you (Christ)!  

Unfortunately, Christians mostly gave up even trying to understand the Trinity.  But, if we’re resolved that we want to go into the mystery, then I think we must seek to understand the Trinity experientially and contemplatively. To approach the Trinity in this way is not to understand at all, but to “stand under” a waterfall of infinite and loving Flow.  

If the Trinitarian life flows between us, then every aspect of our lives is something that we can allow,  enjoy,  and steward. Trinitarian theology offers us the understanding that we are being guided and we are participating in the Great Mystery.  And it has very little to do with us individually, except, like Mary in Nazareth, our “yes” seems to be crucial. It matters. God does not operate uninvited or undesired.  

You are a part of the flow. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and you too—to the degree you say “yes”—are also a giving and a receiving, constituted by the same relationships of love that are the Trinity…. You dare not stop this flow without losing your essential self.

Each person of the Trinity welcomes one hundred percent of what is offered, which is entire and unrestricted, and then pays it forward one hundred percent. This flow is the origin of our notions of grace and an abundant universe. There is Divine Generosity at the center of everything.  

You can live this Trinitarian mystery yourself. Trust love,  trust communion,  trust vulnerability,  and trust mutuality.  Always seek to be in relationship, finding little ways to serve others, to serve people who are sick or poor and cannot pay anything back.  Know that our hearts have been given to us so that they may be handed on, just like the Trinity. And we’ll begin to know ourselves inside this mystery called Love….

Don’t try to work this out too much with your head. Just trust the flow of the most natural, dynamic, and positive energy that’s already flowing through you.  It will always feel like Love.[1]

Father Rohr says, “The Trinity can only be understood with the contemplative mind.”  What does he mean by the “contemplative mind?”      I didn’t know, so I asked Google.  I asked, “What does Richard Rohr mean by ‘contemplative mind?’”  Here’s what Google said, in Rohr’s “Center for Action and Contemplation website:

The contemplative mind is about receiving and being present to the moment, to the now,  without judgment, analysis, or critique. Contemplative “knowing” is a much more holistic, heart-centered knowing, where mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment just as it is.[2]

So, Fr. Rohr is saying that the Trinity can only be understood by receiving and being present to the moment, by being in the now, without analyzing how something can be both one and three at the same time.  The Trinity can only be understood with the contemplative mind.

Let’s try it.  I’d like you to be in contemplation for a minute or two and then I’ll ask you to contemplate this strange notion of God being three in one.  Please close your eyes.  Take a couple of deep, spirit-filled breaths.                     Breath in.    Breath out.         And, as a thought enters your mind, gently let it go, and return to paying attention to your breath.    Breath in.    Breath out.         As a thought enters your mind, gently let it go and return to paying attention to your breath.    [Pause]

Now imagine a circle.  Imagine God the Father at the top of the circle, and his love flowing out to the Son, a third of the way down the circle.  And the son’s love is flowing to the Holy Spirit two-thirds of the way around the circle.  The Holy Spirit is adoring the Father at the top, and the circle flows around and around eternally.  It’s like a waterwheel. Rohr talks about “[standing] under” a waterfall of infinite and loving Flow.“

Please open your eyes.    Does that help?  Does experiencing the Trinity in this contemplative way help?

Father Rohr says,

The Trinity can’t be proved rationally. You must experience its flow in your life on different levels: You must have moments where you know that a Big Life is happening in you (Holy Spirit), yet beyond you (Father), and also as you (Christ)!  

I don’t know if you’ve had moments like this.  I’m not sure I have.   But I like the image of “a Big Life happening in you (Holy Spirit), yet beyond you (Father), and also as you (Christ)!“

I’ll reread another paragraph by Father Rohr.

If the Trinitarian life flows between us, then every aspect of our lives is something that we can allow, enjoy, and steward. Trinitarian theology offers us the understanding that we are being guided and we are participating in the Great Mystery. And it has very little to do with us individually, except, like Mary in Nazareth, our “yes” seems to be crucial. It matters. God does not operate uninvited or undesired.  

The way I would say this is that to be in the Flow of Love, all we have to do is say “yes.”  “God does not operate uninvited or undesired.” 

Rohr continues:

You are a part of the flow. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and you too—to the degree you say “yes”—are also a giving and a receiving, constituted by the same relationships of love that are the Trinity.

I like this.  When we’re in the Flow of Love, we are both a giving and a receiving – receiving God’s love and giving it back to God and to other people.  It’s a circle, a mysterious waterwheel.

I find this next paragraph really powerful.  Fr. Rohr gives us this advice:

You can live this Trinitarian mystery yourself.  Trust love, trust communion, trust vulnerability, and trust mutuality. Always seek to be in relationship, finding little ways to serve others, to serve people who are sick or poor and cannot pay anything back. Know that our hearts have been given to us so that they may be handed on, just like the Trinity. And we’ll begin to know ourselves inside this mystery called Love.

Yes, “Always seek to be in relationship, [find] little ways to serve others.”

That’s one of the advantages of having so few active members in this church.  You don’t have a choice!  You have to serve each other if you’re going to keep this church afloat.

Here’s an idea for a spiritual practice:  When you’re in a meeting, discussing some aspect of the church’s business, try to do two things at once:  talk about the business, and at the same time step back a bit and be aware of being in the Flow of Love, serving and loving your fellow parishioners, and loving and serving your church. 

We are always in the Flow of Love.  We can’t escape it.  Mostly we’re not aware of being in Love’s flow.  There is much joy to be had as we bring ourselves into awareness of the Trinity embracing everything we do and say.

So, to conclude: How is it possible for God to be both one and three?  As Father Richard Rohr says,

Don’t try to work this out too much with your head. Just trust the flow of the most natural, dynamic, and positive energy that’s already flowing through you. It will always feel like Love. 

Let us pray:  Holy Trinity, Triune God, help us be aware of the Flow of Love in everything we do.  Help us be about our business  and, at the same time, be aware that we are participating in Love’s ceaseless flow.  Amen


[1] https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#search/trinity/FMfcgzGsnBXdQSVnxwxpSLvdZsCtmKdK

[2] https://cac.org/about/what-is-contemplation/