Archive for the ‘Filoque’ Tag

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR TRINITY SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, who has granted to us, your servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the unity:

We ask you to keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 131

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Exodus 3:1-8b, 10-15

Psalm 12

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is, by definition, the Sunday immediately following Pentecost Sunday.  Therefore the practice of the old lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), whereby separate sets of readings for Trinity Sunday and the First Sunday after Pentecost exist, is odd.

Trinity Sunday is unique on the calendar of Western Christianity.  It is the only feast devoted to a doctrine, without an accompanying event.  Trinity Sunday is also one of the seven principal feasts, according to The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The other principal feasts are Easter Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

I approach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity with great caution.  St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Greek in Romans 11:33, referred to God’s inscrutable judgments and unsearchable ways (The Revised English Bible, 1989) or unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989).  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is, despite all orthodox statements (from Nicaea to Chalcedon), unsearchable and inscrutable.  I accept those orthodox statements while recognizing the existence of logical inconsistencies in orthodox Trinitarian theology.  The procession of the Holy Spirit is especially challenging.  If the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, how can the Spirit proceed from the Father and, if one is Roman Catholic, the Son also? I also understand that a cluster of heresies has resulted from pious attempts to explain the Holy Trinity. A few of these are Arianism, Apollinarianism, and Adoptionism.

I embrace the mystery.  The nature of God is what it is; no mere mortal can understand it fully.  God is also both transcendent and imminent.  How does that work?  Furthermore, God is, for lack of better words, bigger than our agendas.

The language of orthodox Trinitarian theology is prose poetry.  That is appropriate, for metaphors are fit for thinking, speaking, and writing of God.  We must say something, even though we will get some details wrong.  May we grasp that we are using prose poetry, and embrace the Trinitarian mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Discipleship and the Mystery of God   1 comment

Holy Trinity Icon--Andrei Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 9:15-23 (Monday)

Exodus 25:1-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 20 (Both Days)

Revelation 4:1-8 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (Tuesday)

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Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

They will collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

–Psalm 20:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The doctrine of the Holy Trinity contains much mystery, as it should.  No single passage of scripture teaches the entirety of the doctrine, which theologians cobbled together from verses and interpreted (with much argument) long ago.  Some details remain contentious.  For example, does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son or just from the Father?  (This is a difference between Eastern Orthodoxy and most of Western Christianity.)  The answer to that question is irrelevant to me.  Nevertheless, my muscle memory directs me, when reciting the Nicene Creed (even when the ecumenical text omits “and the Son”, to say, “and the Son.”  I am, at least for the purpose of habit, a filioque man.

Perhaps the main purpose of the doctrine of the Trinity (the closest human thought can come to explaining the nature of God) is to discourage explanations.  Maybe the proper response to the doctrine is to accept the mystery inherent in it and to admit that we will never comprehend God fully or anything close to it.

That sense of the mystery of God exists in most of these days’ pericopes.  Although Abraham and God were on a first-name basis in Genesis, according to that book, the depiction of God changed later in the Torah.  In the Book of Exodus God was remote and the holiness of God was lethal to people, according to that text.  We read of God appearing as a cloud and as a pillar of fire.  The Ark of the Covenant, which a pseudo-documentary on the History Channel argued without proof was probably a nuclear reactor, was, according Hebrews scriptures, deadly to anyone who touched it.  And the mystery of God is a topic appropriate for the Apocalypse of John, with its plethora of symbolic language from the beginning to the end.

Jesus, the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity (however the mechanics of that worked; I am preserving the mystery), was approachable, interacting with people and dining in homes.  There was nothing secret about that.  There remains nothing secret about that.  Yet the wisdom of God, manifested in Jesus, remains a secret to many.  Furthermore, many people, including a host of professing Christians, misunderstand that wisdom frequently.  The main reason for this reality, I suspect, is that we humans often see what we want or expect to see, and that God frequently works in ways contrary to our expectations.  The fault is with us, of course, not with God.  Also, the radical message of Jesus, inflammatory nearly 2000 years ago, remains so.  It challenges political, economic, social, and military system.  Many professing Christians are found of these systems and depend upon them.  Following Jesus can be costly, then.

We can know something about the nature of God, but mostly we must embrace the mystery, or else fall into Trinity-related heresies.  Much more important than attempting to explain God is trying to follow God and to act properly in relation to our fellow human beings.  Throughout the pages of the Bible we can find commandments to care for the vulnerable, refrain from exploiting each other, welcome the strangers, love our neighbors as we love ourselves, et cetera.  How human societies would look if more people pursued that agenda is at least as great a mystery as is the Trinity.  We are more likely, however, to find an answer to the former than to the latter in this life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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