Monday, June 4, 2012

Broaching the Holy Trinity and Mystery

The solemnity of the Holy Trinity which the Church celebrated yesterday has often been known to be a preacher’s bane.  Understandably so, for the simple fact that it celebrates what and who God is in his essence, and one finds oneself being very limited in one’s usage of analogues and metaphors to try to bring across something which is much larger than life.

The Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev circa 1411-1425
Perhaps the greatest mistake that preachers do is to do just that – focusing on just the analogy.  It is in doing so that one ‘shrinks’ or minimalises one’s theology-talk about God because one finds it much more comfortable to wrap one’s mind around any given topic than for the topic or subject matter to expand one's mind.  Herein lies what would be man’s greatest stumbling block - if we think about it objectively.  When one is an expert, specialist or scholar on any subject, the immediate reaction is to think that since there is so much that one knows about it, there is an expectation for one to be able to ‘shrink’ the matter into comfortable, easily digestible pieces.  If humility is lacking in the person,  it would be a great temptation to say that one can do that with some degree of ease, and that one is fully capable of bring others to understand something which in fact takes many years of study, research, discipline and reflection.

The difference here, is that when we are dealing with God, we cannot approach anything Godly with the same attitude and expectations, as compared to other scientific disciplines, for example medicine or law or engineering.  And it is for this reason that it is pertinent for a theologian to keep maintaining an attitude of humility when broaching his ‘subject’, because one needs to keep remembering that no one ever masters God. 

But how about the 'average' person in the pew?  I hold the view, with quite many of my brother priests, that there is a certain lack of humility which borders on arrogance, among a large number of laity when it comes to matters of theology.  Perhaps an explanation is needed here.  These would be the people who, when broaching topics that are mystical, a bit deep in theology or matters that require some thinking beyond what they are generally accustomed to, tend to sniff at them and say ‘oh, that is too difficult for me, so I won’t even bother with it’.  It is different when one’s attitude is ‘this is really deep and mystical, so I really need to sit with it for a long while to allow it to bring me somewhere with it’.   While the former has a somewhat hidden smugness and arrogance couched within, the latter displays a willingness to be shaped, moulded and stretched, resulting from a humility that is also somewhat hidden.

Being told something to believe in and believing in it as a result is far less transformative than beholding a truth and allowing it form and shape one’s very being.  A good theologian does the latter (or allows it to be done to him), whilst a mere lecturer may only be adept at being the former. 

Me?  I am neither.  But I am hoping that this little reflection will concretize my aims and goals as a graduate student of theology.  On the very theological celebration of Holy Trinity Sunday, perhaps what should remain on our minds and hearts is that the mystery of God and the community of his persons is something that should never be reduced, but on the contrary, a reality that constantly invites us to an ever-expanded and stretched and outreaching reality of who God really is.  This is because God is love, and love being love is never going to really be love if it is reduced and minimalised or made ‘easy’.  Love, which is at the heart of the Holy Trinity, has to be Mystery.

Love is always going to be expanded and stretched to be ever inviting, always encompassing and willing to be embraced. 


  1. Dear Fr. Luke,
    Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

    I especially like that line, "love is never going to be really love if it is reduced and minimalised or made easy." How true!

    The beauty about God is that He is such a magnificent mystery that one can NEVER hope to fully explain His divine-ness. This itself is a never-ending source of great wonder that one can never tire of.

    We can only stand in awe. And thankfulness.

    God Bless,

  2. Dear Fr Luke,

    There are many things that are too "chim" for us who-sit-in-the-pews. Then again, we are not asked to solve the mystery of God. What we have to do is to pause and be in awe with this mystery.

    Interestingly, a copy of the Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev is hung on the main facing wall as you walked into IHM's columbarium. I wonder how many actually stopped and contemplated on the richness of this icon. To wonder why they are without sandals, to ask about the significance of the "twig" (one of them is holding), of the house and of the tree. ...And the blue in their garments. "Why is there only one bowl?"

    Or do we simply walk pass this icon and reducing it to just another old faded picture that the Church wants to preserve?

  3. I like " being told something to believe in and believing in it as a result is far less transformative than beholding a truth and allowing it to form and shape one's very being..." because I was thinking how true this is for us lay Catholics, the majority of whom holds no high philosophical concepts or has any mystical experiences. Sometimes, we simply gaze at the crucifix or holy icons - we look at Truth- it is just a simple but ultimate reality for us and we do not know nor need to question the whys or wherefore s.......
    Perhaps , this simplicity and openness paves the way for transformation?

    Thanks for an interesting write up, Fr. God bless you.

  4. Dear Fr Luke

    What a beautiful post. I echo Robbie, the line: "... God is love, and love being love is never really going to be love if it is reduced and minimalized or made 'easy', how true. I recently had a conversation with a dear sister in Christ, fellow pilgrimages that we are on this long journey homeward bound, and she said that she was growing to realize that love, like trust, is a daily struggle of conscious choice. In my daily struggles, seen or unseen by the people around me, I have come to learn this. That it's easy to trust and love when all the happy feelings are there and things are going well. But it is when things start falling apart and feelings, (un)dependable as they are, go awry, then it makes me call consciously on my faith to choose to trust that this is the situation meant for me at this point in time, and that I am meant to learn something from it, baby step as it is, towards a closer relationship with the Holy Trinity.

    It sounds like a soppy love story, but for the first time in my life, Fr Luke, over and above what the movies and Cosmopolitans of this world tell us, I know what it is like to really fall in love, in a slow and steady manner, and be assured that I am loved back in a respectful, all-encompassing manner.

    God bless,