Reflection for Trinity Sunday
Trinity Sunday sums up the Mighty Acts of God from Good Friday through Passiontide, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday also shows the Mighty Acts as the work of the three Persons of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God in three persons. The Persons are not created; I suggest a helpful way of expressing the Trinity is to say that the Persons of the Trinity are manifestations of the one true God.
Within the Trinity there are relationships – we say that God is Love. Love requires an object, so the Father loves the Son. Within the Godhead there are dynamic relationships motivated by love.
Within the Liturgy we stand and recite what we believe, using the words of the Nicene Creed. This creed has an interesting history. It emerged at the Council of Nicaea which was summoned by the Emperor Constantine in 325AD. The Emperor wished to promote unity in the Church, and in particular to deal with the disunity created by the Arian heresy which denied the divinity of Christ. The Emperor attended the council in person; there were some 250 bishops present, although there is some uncertainty about the exact numbers. The church historian Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (who was there) has a vivid description of the proceedings. There were tiers of seating on either side of the hall and the bishops took their seats in silent anticipation. All rose when the Emperor entered ‘and his appearance was like some heavenly angel of God, his bright mantle shedding lustre…’ He addressed the council in a soft voice, in Latin with an interpreter, but later in discussions he used Greek, proving his fluency in both languages.
The Emperor made his way to a small chair made of gold and all remained standing until he was seated. The Emperor was a commanding figure but remained courteous and patient throughout the proceedings. Eusebius was especially impressed that Constantine was not accompanied by a military guard, but only by some of his faithful friends.
As the discussions advanced, Eusebius put forward the baptismal creed used in his own diocese of Caesarea Maritima and this was accepted as orthodox. The creed accepted at Nicaea is not exactly the same as our Nicene Creed as it was modified by several later councils until the final form adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD.
This little bit of history reminds us that our beliefs are of long standing and have stood the test of time. Our Church’s doctrines and theology and liturgy are full of Trinitarian language. One of the best loved examples is Paul’s farewell prayer at 2Corinthians 13.13: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.’ The prayer asks that the Holy Spirit may bond us together in love. The prayer has a function for each Person of the Trinity. Our prayer is that the divine Jesus dispenses the gift of God’s grace, that the Father is motivated by divine love and that the Holy Spirit binds us all together with one another and with God. Our devotion to God in Trinity is beautifully expressed by Paul as he signs off his letter to the Corinthians.
The Reverend Dr Calum Gilmour