Wednesday, May 26, 2010

God in Three Persons: Blessèd Trinity

Alfred, Lord Tennyson said of our first hymn today (the first hymn in the hymn book too), “Holy, Holy, Holy”, that it is the greatest hymn in the English language. Bishop Reginald Heber (April 21, 1783 – April 3, 1826) wrote the wonderful hymn.

Heber was the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta (now part of the Church of North India) and is chiefly remembered as a hymn-writer. He was born to an aristocratic family of wealth in Cheshire, England, but early on in his life developed a deep desire and vocation for missionary work. He was consecrated Bishop of Calcutta in 1823.

The hymn is about the majesty of God, expressed within the tradition of the Trinity. Perhaps understanding the concept of the Trinity is one of the more difficult leaps-of-faith.

To develop a deeper appreciation of the concept of the Trinity it helps to remember that Christianity, as a faith group, grew out of Judaism. The Hebrew scripture promotes an understanding of the Divine blessing upon the people of Israel as a gift to the whole world. The pure beauty, imagination and simplicity of such a monotheistic faith is a blessing indeed.

So, the early Christians understood their experience of God in three ways. God is described as Father, the one from whom all things precede; as Son, the incarnation of God; and as the Holy Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being. Our Christianity faith, springing forth from monotheistic Judaism, did not suddenly come up with three gods. Instead, we believe that each distinct "person" is the whole of God. Whatever is said about one is to be said of all three.

Trinitarian belief offers three ways of accessing the Divine life, each of which leads to the whole of God. Use the one that helps you the most. Whatever metaphors or concepts we use to help our deepening faith are a blessing, I suppose. But, according to the hymn, it’s not the concept of the Trinity that is a blessing; it is God (in three persons) that is the blessing.

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