I KNOW preachers are supposed to roll their eyes in horror at
the thought of having to preach on the Trinity, but I have to
confess to a long-term, perhaps rather geekish, fascination with
it. At school, we noted the feast in the week after the Sunday, and
I remember sitting cross-legged in the gym (the great hall being in
use for exams), marvelling at chariots made of fiery many-eyed
beasts, with wheels within wheels, and "Holy, Holy, Holy" early in
the morning rising to thee, and its splendid J. B. Dykes tune.
Remembering the Trinity challenges our tendency to what I can
only call "serial monotheism". This is the lazy habit of thinking
of God as though in date order: first, the Father; then, the Son;
then (if you're lucky), the Holy Spirit. Such wooden thinking locks
us into imagery that reduces the mystery of God to a three-part
cartoon: the Old Man in the Sky, Jesus the Carpenter of Galilee,
and the Brooding Bird that hovers over the most important bits of
More nourishing to the theological imagination is, surely,
Rublev's famous icon The Hospitality of Abraham. I once
sat for four hours in an almost empty cinema in Notting Hill
watching Andrei Tarkovsky's epic film about the life of Rublev.
Tarkovsky depicted him as one who lived and worked through times of
war and social breakdown.
After what seemed years of battles, fire, flight, and general
mayhem, the last minutes of the film showed the entire completed
icon, among other works of Rublev, but now miraculously dissolved
into colour. I have never seen the original in the flesh, as it
were, but, oh! I can remember the revelation of the blue of the
Father's garments like the sapphire pavement of Exodus 24.10: "as
the very heaven for clearness". It was an epiphany, a shock, a
cleansing of the imagination.
The concerns of the moment, even the agonies of the world, were
suddenly revealed as held within God's loving but
unintrusive grace. And surely that is the point about the Trinity.
It is not some clever piece of theologistics - not an "answer" to
the problem of the divine nature.
You will not find the Trinity in other faith traditions, but its
scriptural resonances are close to those that provided fertile
ground for Jewish Cabbalists, whose mission was to connect the
experience of Israel with cosmology, prayer, and human destiny. We
should never be content to say that the Trinity is "too difficult".
It isn't difficult: it is impossible for the human mind, and that
is why it matters so much.