This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday; the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Church’s liturgical calendar. Trinity Sunday celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity; the three Persons of God; the Father, (the Creator) the Son, (the Redeemer) and the Holy Spirit, (the Sustainer.) It’s one of seven principal feasts in the Church Year and the only major feast day devoted to a doctrine rather than to a person or an event. It’s an important enough concept for the 1982 Hymnal to offer ten hymns in the section on the Holy Trinity, including “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”, “Come, Thou Almighty King” and “Holy Father, Great Creator.”
Special observances in honor of the Doctrine of the Trinity are traceable back to the tenth century. This day was especially memorable for the English Church because Thomas Becket, the famous martyr, was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on Trinity Sunday, 1162.
Standing, as it does, midway between the two halves of the Church Year; the first half focusing on the life of Christ and the second half focusing on the life of the Church, this is a Sunday which reminds us, “Some things must be believed in order to be seen.”
The Doctrine of the Trinity is the celebration of the triumph of the multiple hues of complexity over a mono-chromatic simplicity. It’s a reminder that the central metaphor for God for Christians is a diversity encapsulated within a unity. And, the Trinity is not the only symbol of diversity for Christians. After all, the Bible itself—with its two creation accounts in the Book of Genesis and its four different gospels, each one enriched by its strikingly unique approach to telling the story of Jesus and his ministry—is a symbol of a unity that can never be uniform.
These multiple attestations to truth also help us appreciate the complexity of Jesus and the Mystery of the Incarnate Christ. The Son of the Living God cannot be captured by a single, lone witness. A diversity of witnesses is required and there’s a wondrous and creative tension which exists between these three separate persons of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity!
Some people are put off by the complexity of the Trinity; as if it were too complicated a concept to understand. But it isn’t that a Trinitarian God is too complicated to understand. It’s that a Trinitarian God is too complex to be manipulated or managed by human beings with our own all-too-human agendas. We often see every issue as either black or white, but life is lived in living color; in all of the many wonderous hues of the rainbow.
May we embrace this complexity over simplicity…and this unity which is never uniform.
The Right Reverend Dean Elliott Wolfe, D.D.