Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's the Great Pictological Blog Post, Charlie Brown!

Ready? Okay, here we go...

The First Sunday after Whitsunday

Another awesome meme gleaned with thanks to Episcopal Church Memes

I've heard it said before that Trinity Sunday (which is, this year, on June 15) is a good day for a rector to hand of the preaching to the intern, or to the deacon. Basically, the rector can let someone else confuse the hell out of the congregation. Now I know that we have Thomas Becket to thank for this preaching conundrum. And for some strange reason, I'm taking it upon myself to give this a shot.

Stained glass depiction of the Trinity

I don't have credit for this one... it's been
on my phone for so long I don't remember where I got it.

Nonetheless, I'm giving the Trinity Sunday thing a shot with this blog post. The picture above is one that I've seen many times in stained glass at cathedrals or chapels, except that it was in Latin... But stained glass is generally used as a teaching opportunity, and considering the limitations of the teaching medium, I think the image is fairly straightforward. It covers the connections of the Trinity, but it simply does address the how of the connections.

Icon of the Trinity
Yay for Wikipedia!

Now for something completely different; a different depiction of the interactions of the Trinity. I have always really liked this Russian icon of the Trinity, even though it is not the same kind of teaching tool like the stained glass window. I like this icon because it shows the three persons of the Trinity engaged in community. They are gathered at a meal (definitely a huge plus in my book) and they are seated so that they are facing one another. That seems small, but I think it is a key part. I wouldn't be able to highlight the community aspect if this depiction of three separate persons had them all with their backs to one another. There would be no interaction in that case. So these two aspects of the icon, the food and the community, I think indicate that the Trinity can show us, as the Church, that we are not lone rangers offering salvation to the world. We are in fact a community of believers.

Additionally, there is another aspect of the icon that I prefer over the stained glass example: as of late, I have been finding it harder and harder to explain why the Trinity is described as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the pronouns for all three persons are usually "he." I mean, at the very least, the original Greek word used for the Holy Spirit was pneuma, the gender of which was feminine. So more and more, I like to think of the three persons of the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

So, here are different ways of thinking of this:
Picture thanks to James Garlick, also featured on APoD 2014 May 31

In my encounters with Atheists, I have learned the term Ground of All Being. That is God the Creator of all that is seen and unseen, who put the stars in the heavens and made the world that we know. Everything that we observe has been put into motion by God the Creator. Thomas Aquinas described that the Law of the Universe is that which governs the movements of the cosmos... we observe how the Universe moves and I believe that it has been orchestrated by God the Creator. And in terms of an orchestra, the Creator is not the maestro out front, who has told the musicians how to play the music (because we know full well that the musicians can play without the maestro). The Creator, rather, is like the composer themselves. But more subtle than that, because the Creator has engineered the acoustical physics that determine how the vibrations of the strings or the air coming out of a horn resonates against our ear drums and makes us to perceive the beauty wrapped up in the orchestra itself.

The icon of Christ from the Church of
St. Catherine in Mount Sinai

Jesus Christ is a character in history who has been hotly debated, examined, disputed, worshipped and in all other manners scrutinized. In my Theology 101 course in college, I read an article that tried to describe the fully human nature and fully divine nature of Christ in terms of how a person might be fully human and become fully frog in order to bring a message of salvation to frog-kind. It was weird. I guess the image that I prefer came from a Taize monk who came to camp one year. He described Christ, the Logos, as human embodiment of God the Creator's Word. That was cool. The Word came and dwelled among us. God's Word lived like us and in this way was able to bring us back to God.

This has been the background on my phone for about a year.
I don't remember where I found the image. Sorry.

Last week was Pentecost, and together with the lectionary readings at the end of the Easter season, we have read a lot of things about what the Holy Spirit is. We have seen images of her as flame, as a rushing wind, of the Paraclete (which is sometimes deliberately misinterpreted as a parakeet, but does actually mean sustainer); the designation "Holy Spirit" even gives its own mental image. But in the words of the Nicene Creed, "We believe in the Holy Spirit/ The holy, catholic church/ The communion of saints/ The forgiveness of sins/ The resurrection of the dead/ And the life of the world to come." And, if the semantics of the creed are to be believed, each of those things are an image of the Holy Spirit, or at least her work.

In the end, I will share with you what has been shared with me: if you try too hard to explain the Trinity, you risk messing everyone up. So instead, what do you think of the images I've shared?

In the name of the Undivided Trinity... Amen.