The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents 


 

Trinity Sunday…holy, holy holy…

© 2015 Frank B Crumbaugh III

 










The First Sunday after Pentecost carries the supplemental moniker “Trinity Sunday.”
 

The word Trinity does not appear in The Holy Bible. It is a word coined by the Church to describe the Person and Being of God. An Outline of the Faith (the catechism) speaks without being especially revelatory:

 

Q. What is the Trinity?

A. The Trinity is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[1]

 

Scutum fidei[2], displayed here, is as good an explanation of the Trinity as anything else; it is a simple diagram that appears sometime in the Middle Ages (12th C?) from a variety of sources.
 

The liturgical language around the Trinity is quite old, though the earliest extant reference we have is a copy of the Gregorian Sacramentary, transcribed in the late 8th C.  Trinity’s location in the liturgical calendar probably is earlier than 8th C, but again, the oldest extant durable media with “Trinity” written on them are late 700s CE. The use of Trinity as a foundation name for American parishes dates from the earliest years of English settlement in North America; it is the third most commonly used title for parishes in the American Church, exceeded in usage only by Saint John’s (2nd) and Christ’s Church (1st).[3] Trinity comes as well to less-predictable usages; the British governmental agency tending the UK’s lighthouses and buoys is called Trinity House[4], a co-protagonist’s role in the Matrix movies is named Trinity[5], and the spot in New Mexico where the first atomic explosion took place is Trinity Site.[6]

Trinity Sunday is often called “the feast of an Idea.” That’s alright, I suppose, but it’s not terribly rigorous theologically. We derive a better grasp on the Trinity as we feel its grasp upon us in Paul’s stirring “…you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”[7] 

All of that said, we have obliged ourselves as the Church to celebrate the fullness of God’s Being as we describe that Being in the word Trinity, and that celebration has to begin somewhere. I think the celebration is best begun using the words of scripture that we use more often than any other- we use them every time we celebrate The Holy Eucharist: 

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."[8] 

This is the incessant rhythmic thundering cry of the seraphim as they see God. They do not describe Him as having a cool shirt, a nifty white beard, or an awesome walking stick. They do not rehearse His mighty saving acts as He has delivered human beings over and over again. No, the seraphim simply are consumed by worship, and they utter 

HOLY  HOLY  HOLY 

sanctus sanctus sanctus 

ἅγιος ἅγιος ἅγιος 

קדוש קדוש קדוש 

We struggle to define things that are mysterious, and we think ourselves defective, or the premise deceptive, when we cannot. Our theological striving about the Trinity gets us as far as re-casting “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” as “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,” and that attempt fails miserably because it describes God functional utility in our lives rather than describing the Person and Being of God.  Scholarly struggles are endless and they are ultimately incomplete, as is our knowledge, and therefore our understanding. While we need to pursue those struggles, they mean nothing and make no sense without the awe and the majestic splendor that would make a seraph thunder 

HOLY  HOLY  HOLY. 

I think it authentic and not facile to say that the struggle to understand the Trinity is swallowed up, healed, and rendered unimportant when I can join my voice with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name: 

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

    heaven and earth are full of your glory.

      Hosanna in the highest.

    Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

      Hosanna in the highest.[9] 

These are words that get me closer to the Trinity by getting to know myself better, struggling to understand Him. This is a time when my awed, over-whelmed worship dominates my experience, touching my heart and only then giving my mind the cue to undertake the theology; God uses my NOT understanding, my ignorance, to better know Him. If this is exhausted acquiescence, it is acquiescence to my own limitations; the perceived opacity of God is my problem, not His. It is the limit of the work one human being can do, grateful that the Truth does not depend on him, or end with him, but on and with God. 

Think on these things. Love you. See you in Church. 

FBC3+, 11 June 2017 being The First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday


[1]The Book of Common Prayer, pg 852

[2] L. “shield of the Faith,” as Jerome’s Vulgate translates it, Ephesians 6:16

[3]A cursory search of The Episcopal Church Annual compiled by The Rev’d Christopher Yaw of Battle Creek, Michigan suggests, by way of comparison, that Holy Innocents’ is 60th .

[4] Founded by Henry VIII in 1514 as The Master, Wardens, and Assistants of the Guild, Fraternity, or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity, and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford-Strond in the County of Kent

[5] Warner Brothers, 1999

[6] 16 July 1945, White Sands, New Mexico

[7] Romans 8:15-17  NRSV

[8] Isaiah 6:3  NRSV, often denominated as “The Inaugural Vision” since it is here that Isaiah is called to the prophetic ministry

[9]The Book of Common Prayer, pg. 362