Exploring the concept of the Trinity is one of the hardest parts of the Christian faith. Some theologians have even joked that if you think you get it, you clearly don’t! But this complete conundrum is also central to our faith.
Richard Rohr points out that “Trinitarian revelation says start with the loving – and this is the new definition of being!” (Rohr, The Divine Dance). Many theologians have commented on the idea that the relationship between the persons of the Trinity are what makes us relational, what puts love in action at the heart of the divine image in us.
For me, this principle that God is not some lone and distant figure is absolutely central to my experience of God. It is also key to understanding why God would choose to come and experience his own creation by living as a human being – Jesus. And it also explains why he continues to be involved in this world every moment through the action and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Above all, if I believe in a God who exists in relationship within God-self, then I can also believe that this God is interested in a relationship with me – and with all his creatures – and this call to relationship runs through the Bible and through Christian faith like letters in a stick of rock.
God is not distant, but yearns to be close to us, always inviting and calling us into an intimate relationship with Godself. What an incredible joy, and also a rock on which we can rely in our times of struggle. If God was somehow just ‘out there’, uninvolved with the daily dust of the universe, then it would make little sense to call out to this deity in our times of pain and trial.
Instead Christians believe in a God who loves us all so much he became one of us, lived and died as we do, experienced all the human emotions, and who remains with us still through his Spirit.
And through this we are in turn invited into the divine dance that is God. For the very nature of this God is love and relationship, and so when we love, when we are in relationships that build us up and encourage and strengthen us, then we participate in the Divine nature also. It is in our relationships that we experience love, that we experience the Divine in tangible form.
Rublev’s famous icon painting of the Trinity has three winged figures around a table. There is clearly a space for a fourth at the table, and the poses of the figures suggest invitation. This invitation is for the viewer – for each one of us.
George Herbert wrote the wonderful poem Love (III). It begins ‘Love bade me welcome’. And it finishes ‘You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat. So I did sit and eat.’ It’s an imagined conversation between God and a person, an utterly beautiful poetic expression of the eternal invitation of Love to the Soul – just google ‘George Herbert Love’, and you’ll find it! So often poetry can express what mere prose cannot. It puts into words the emotions we might feel at the invitation which Rublev paints.
So whilst trying to explain the theology of Trinity in ordinary prose (rather than poetry or art) reduces us to (albeit very useful!) metaphors of clover leaves and all kinds of linguistic contortions, as we desperately search for an image or simile that works completely to express that most elusive of principles, the truth is that we can experience this Trinity each and every day. Just by being – with God, with one another, with ourselves. Just by loving. Just by presence.
For even though words often fail, Love is always enough.