Trinity Sunday

Benjamin Lee

AD 2006

Revelation 4:1-11 John 3:1-15

“After this I saw, and behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither . . .” (Rev. 4.1): and so St John the Divine ascends to the divine life, and catches a glimpse of heaven, a vision of eternal life.  What he sees is the splendour and beauty of God himself, in his heavenly glory, a splendour to which the powers of our human description are hardly adequate.  Not inappropriately, then the Apocalypse speaks in the language of poetry and imagination—to arouse our affections and to kindle our love: hence the likeness of precious stones; a rainbow; lightnings and thunderings; elders clothed in white with crowns of gold; lamps of fire; the sea of glass like crystal; 6-winged angelic beasts—and the focal point, the centre of it all: he who sits upon the throne is worshiped.

So would we join “with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, [to] laud and magnify” his glorious name (BCP, p. 81).  For the One who sits upon the throne is he whom the Seraphim invoke as thrice holy: “and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

We begin Trinity Season here, because here is where we hope to end.  This adoration and contemplation of God as he is, is the ultimate purpose of our human existence, it is the perfection of the Christian life, it is that for which we have been created. This is a glimpse of the fatherland, the lasting peace, and Sabbath rest of our souls in the true knowledge of and union with God; it is the end of all our strivings, the fulfillment of our search for truth, and satisfaction of all our desire which can alone bring us real happiness.  Such worship of the Triune God is in fact the goal of all creation.

On this feast of Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Holy Trinity which God is: for through the Son, who was lifted up for us that we should not perish, the Father adopts as his own children those who are born again by the Spirit.  This divine Trinity has revealed himself as for us and with us.  The rebirth which takes place in our baptism is the beginning of our life in the Trinity, a renewal and regeneration which is effective for the remission of all sins.

Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  To see the kingdom of God, to see God as he is, requires that we be born again—and this rebirth is by the grace of God, the Holy Ghost.  But why should we need to be ‘born again,’ and what does this mean?  Recall what accompanied the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the glory of God: “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).  For in the “dazzling light” of God’s transcendent majesty, Isaiah cannot help but humble himself, and recognize his own darkness of soul, weakness, iniquity and wretchedness.  According to the Wisdom of Solomon, “perverse thoughts separate man from God, and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish; because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.  For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will leave foolish thoughts behind, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness” (Wisdom 1:3-5).  Through being baptized into Christ’s death, we have been reborn into his resurrection; we have been forgiven of all our sins, so that not a single spot of guilt remains.  Why then do we continue to confess “our manifold sins and wickedness” (BCP, p. 77), except that our justified souls still have sinful habits?  For the single moment of regeneration in baptism is not the same as the process of renewal whereby we grow in godliness and holiness of life.  To see God face to face, we must become like him.  Thus the Prayer Book exhorts, “and so should we, who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness, continually mortifying all evil desires, and daily increasing in all virtue and godliness of living” (BCP, p. 530).

As St Augustine illustrates: “as it is one thing to be free from fever, and another to grow strong again from the infirmity which the fever produced . . . so the first cure is to remove the cause of infirmity, and this is wrought by the forgiving of all sins; but the second cure is to heal the infirmity itself, and this takes place gradually by making progress in the renewal of that image [in which we have been created]” (On the Trinity 14.17.23).

This is precisely what Trinity Season is about: our journey of sanctification, in order that we may become like God and ascend to see him face to face. “Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Our deformity must be reformed and renewed into deiformity.  Such is the regeneration of our minds and hearts and bodies: from attachment to earthly things to heavenly things; from the lusts and passions of the flesh to love of the spirit; from the habits of vices to the habits of virtues; from that which is mortal and temporal, to eternal life. This means the conversion and purification of our souls, the conversion and purification of our intellect and our will or love.  For how can we reflect the Creator’s glory if his image in us has been tarnished by our sin?  How often do we, like Nicodemus, perceive with carnal eyes, and fail to acquire spiritual vision?  In what ways are we distracted from contemplation of God?  In what manner does our love become entangled with worldly pleasures and pursuits?  Where do we mistakenly seek our happiness elsewhere than in the joy of participating in the Trinitarian life of mutual love?  . . . Therefore, since we are not yet perfect in this life, because we still have to make progress in virtue, in the course of this Trinity season, we shall together, with God’s help, undertake to examine ourselves, to listen to where the Spirit bloweth, that we may be born of the Spirit.

As we read from St Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians: “Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face” (I Cor 13:12).  And again: “But we with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord” (II Cor 3:18).  Our hope is that we should ascend to the Father, through the merits of the Son, who was crucified and raised on our behalf, by the power of the Spirit who changes us into the likeness of God; that the glory of our faith in the Trinitarian mystery may be translated into the glory of sight; and that we may be evermore united to our true love.  Amen.