Trinity Sunday: “Heretical Sunday”

By Andrei Rublev - From

It’s Trinity Sunday. It’s a dreaded day for Catholic preachers the whole world over. Every preacher is faced with the daunting task of preaching about the Trinity: One God, three persons as the central mystery of our faith.  As St. Augustine warned us 1600 years ago, “There is no subject where error is more dangerous, research more laborious, and discovery more fruitful than the oneness of the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”[1]

Trinity Sunday can also be called heretical Sunday. On many Trinity Sundays a lot of heresies have been heard, of all places—from  the pulpit. Many of these heresies were in the form of analogies in an effort to explain in simple language the Trinity. Let us take a look at some of these analogies and their corresponding heresies.

Trinity is like water. Water can be a solid (ice/frozen water), liquid, and gas (water vapor), and yet all three forms are still water. Likewise, God manifests Himself in 3 different ways in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Or Trinity is like a man; he can be a husband, a father and an employee.

Heresy: Modalism or Sabellianism which is the teaching that God is one person that manifests Himself as either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit (1 god, 1 person with 3 different manifestations instead of 1 God, 3 persons).

Trinity is like the sun, God the Father is the sun; the Holy Spirit and the Son are represented by the heat and light.

Heresy:  Arianism which believes that the Son and the Spirit are created and therefore subordinate to the Father.

Trinity is like an egg which has a shell, an egg white and a yolk with all parts making up the egg, and much like how all 3 make up the egg itself, so does each member of the Trinity. Similarly, the trinity is like an apple that has a skin, a flesh and a core. All the parts are uniquely different, but they are all one apple. Or the Trinity is like a three-leaf clover – the three leaves make up the three-leaf clover together.

Heresy: Partialism which taught that Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are components of the one God. Each of the persons of the Trinity is only part God, only becoming fully God when they come together. (Reminds me of Voltes V, although it was not 3 but 5, 5 in 1).

Any analogy of the Trinity will ultimately fall short.  Are there any good analogies about the Trinity? Unfortunately, none. What does this say to us about the Trinity?

God is unfathomable, inexhaustible and ineffable. No human language or categories can ever fully talk about God. God cannot be colonized. We cannot make God in our own image (reverse creation). So what road should we take? Let God be God. The only suitable way of talking about God is to obey God, to submit to how God talk about Godself. God revealed himself in Jesus. God talked about God through Jesus. It was Jesus who talked about God as Trinity. Trinity is not a human invention but originated from God. Trinity is God’s language about God.

On the other hand, this should not discourage preachers to talk about God as Trinity. This Sunday, preachers should not run away from preaching on the Trinity. Trinity has inexhaustible practical implications inasmuch as Trinity is unfathomable.

The whole focus of Trinity Sunday really is not what the Trinity is but how did God the Trinity lived.  The whole focus of Trinity Sunday really is not how to understand the Trinity (although this is very important) but to live and follow the example of God the Trinity.  God, the Father + Son + Holy Spirit, is really the highest paradigm to how we should live our lives. So how did God the trinity lived? The shortest answer is love. But love in the Trinity means more than what we understand and experience as love as human beings.

The Council of Florence in the fifteenth century has this to say about how the Trinity lived: “[T]the Father is entirely in the Son and entirely in the Holy Spirit; the Son is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Son.”

God’s love lived by each person of the Trinity is to be totally focused on the other, to live totally for the other, to welcome totally the other into one’s own, to make room totally for the other, and to totally love the other. Because of this perfect love, God is one and three persons. Perfect selflessness. Perfect unity in diversity.

In other words, God is a relationship, God is a community, and God is love. God is not a noun but a verb. God is not static but dynamic. God is ever loving and ever helping each other, ever forgiving and ever welcoming the other, ever relating, ever cooperating and ever communicating with each other.

We are created in the image and likeness of God, the Father + Son + Holy Spirit. As God is a community, relationship and love, we ought to live as a community, opening ourselves always to the other, always relating and cooperating with one another. The Holy Trinity is the model of the family, community, relationships and all collective endeavors.  As God is one and connected to each other, we are also one, we are interconnected to each other; we are not just interconnected to each other but to whole of God’s creation. As God is unity and diversity we should be united even as we open ourselves to diversity and celebrate difference.

There is still so much to talk about God the Trinity but the most important thing is to live the example of the Trinity. As the Nike ad declares, “just do it!”

[1] De Trinitate, Book 1, Chapter 3, 5.

I am passionate about the intersection between new media and technology. I continue to research and apply new media in theology and vice-versa. I am also a fan of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and her continuing relevance in today’s digital world.
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