Saturday, 1 June 2002
Trinity Sunday always reminds me of my 10 day trek along the Pembrokeshire coast path: physical challenge, mental freedom and spiritual pilgrimage all rolled in to one – in constant communion with the cliffs, the ever-changing sea and the all encompassing sky.
I felt sorry for the preacher in the church I attended in Pembroke on the evening of Trinity Sunday that year – after all I had picked my holiday dates wisely to avoid that particular sermon. He tried to give some explanation of what the Trinity was and inevitably ended up by apologising. If we get bogged down in mathematics or give too much emphasis to three leafed clovers then we inevitably ‘dumb things down’, as they say nowadays.
Perhaps the power of the idea of Trinity lies in the fact that it is beyond explanation. Rather it symbolises the complexities of life, the interplay of various contradictions, contrasts and competing interests; but also the relevance of God and the strength which God gives to the believer in the midst of all of these.
Take the basic ‘trinity’ of Self, Family and Community. A key process in all our lives is to work out the balance between these three. It would be great if each one was always in harmony with both the others, but of course that’s not the way it is in practice – perhaps it would be if we were all perfect but we’re not.
Having said that, it is clear that some of the most beautiful things emerge out of conflict – how many of the greatest artists have conceived their works in response to the painful conflicts within body, mind and spirit. The beauty of the coast is by no means lessened by a dramatic clash between wind, rock and wave.
God is not a simple idea, nor is he a kindly old gentleman. God is greater and more beautiful and more awe inspiring than anything we can think or imagine. As the Old Testament patriarch Jacob found out: in wrestling with God we find strength, even as we are made painfully aware of our humanity. But again, as St Patrick prayed:
I arise today through a mighty strength, the strong name of the Trinity.
Through belief in the three-ness, through the confession of the one-ness
of the creator of creation.