“So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this, Trinity is none afore or after other; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.” – the Athanasian Creed, BCP, page 865
I confess that as a child when I was bored during worship, I would page through the back of the Book of Common Prayer and read the Historical Documents section. Chalcedon, Athanasius, the 39 Articles–each of them hinted at words and concepts I did not yet understand, but that whetted my curiosity for intellectual and spiritual growth.
As an adult, I return to the Athanasian Creed every year before Trinity Sunday. Its poetry in describing the paradox and mystery of the Trinity speaks to my heart and has helped me in so many ways as I encounter paradox and mystery in the world. I have set my heart and faith on the triune God. I have read countless theological descriptions of the Trinity and while there have been glimpses for me of deep and intellectual understanding, they are inevitably fleeting.
So I offer myself up to the mystery and paradox, and to the trinity. There is one God, not three Gods. Yet there are three persons, co-equal, all of them together being fully One. I do not have to understand intellectually to have faith; but nor does having faith mean that I can stop seeking understanding and deeper knowledge.
And this ripples out into other aspects of my faith. Since our faith is grounded in our relationship–with God and our neighbor–where else do we experience mystery and paradox? I have had several challenging conversations with church leaders recently in which I said, “It is possible for two things to be true at the same time…” and then defined two seemingly contradictory situations which were both being experienced as true.
As you prepare for Trinity Sunday, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the Athanasian Creed, or other theological trinitarian works. Where is there mystery and paradox for you? Where is there certainty and clarity?