Monday, May 25, 2009

Trinity as practical doctrine

A relational ontology* focuses on personhood, relationship, and communion as the modality of all existence. This secures for Christian theology a basis for a theology of God that is inherently related to every facet of Christian life. To say that the doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately a practical doctrine with radical implications for Christian life makes sense when the theology of God is removed from the realm of speculation on God in se** to the real of reflection on God-for-us as revealed in creation, in the face of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit who brings about communion between God and creature.

* ontology: the study or concept or understanding of being.
** in se: Latin for "in itself" [herself/himself/godself].

If you ponder this passage, you'll see that it is not as dense as it seems at first.

With thanks to FranIAm for drawing my attention to this quote from Catherine Mowry LaCugna's God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. (New York: HarperCollins, 1991, [pbk] 1993), 250.

That conversation took place today. Two days ago, on Saturday afternoon, I wrote this Facebook update:

Three friends from East, South, and West strolled on a yacht club boardwalk talking about the mysteries of the Holy Trinity. Srsly. Now we are writing. (Two theological works, one novel.) Tonight: silliness, boogie-ing, pre-nuptial and natal day (the groom's) festivities.

Who knew? Unlike Paul the BB, I am not among the 0.5 percent of preachers who like to preach on Trinity Sunday. Maybe this will change! I did once write a little something on the Trinity, to my own surprise.

I'll be on the road on Trinity Sunday, two weekends from now, so this is a little advance resource -- though there is never an inappropriate time to ponder the mysteries of the Trinity. (Another thing I thought I'd never say.)

Speaking of FranIAm, if you are a liturgical Christian (or perhaps even if you are not), you will like her "Ascension to Pentecost" series.

Or you can just ponder the Rublev icon.

9 comments:

Song in my Heart said...

Thank you for this.

The Trinity is one of those things I really don't understand on an intellectual level no matter which angle I try, which is fair enough for a mystery but sometimes intensely frustrating. It was one of the deal-breakers for me, one of the reasons I walked away from the church as a teenager, that nobody seemed to be able to explain the Trinity to me without resorting to a sort of "It just is, okay?" argument. I still don't get it.

And yet when I sing "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" it is the most obvious, believable, natural, true thing there could be. It just is, and I just know, as surely as I know God exists.

As soon as I stop singing, the Trinity becomes a Penrose triangle again, impossible to build. My belief in the existence of God seems to stay the same but my belief in the Trinity, my understanding of that part of the nature of God, only works when I am singing. I don't know why.

Jane R said...

Song, that's exactly it! In the piece to which I linked, I talked about how we can best understanding the Trinity (and Godde in general) when we say (pray, sing) "you" and not when we analyze it (her, him, Godde). I think you express very well what I was trying to say: "...my understanding of that part of the nature of God only works when I am singing."

And you are right in keeping with Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality for which doxology, praise, is paramount: one cannot understand the theology without the spirituality. Outside of praise and prayer, doctrines are incomprehensible. And, I would add, not worth much, if anything.

Paul said...

Song, I concur with Jane. You are so right to go with the singing and the praise. That is precisely the mode in which it can make sense and the mode in which we believe it.

In our walk/talk that day I commented that one of the important things about the Trinity for me is the Christian stance that the Ground of all becoming is relational and thus all reality is relational. This is how we can say "God is Love" and affirm that we are created from and created for love and to be caught up in the fathomless love of God. (OK, I did not say all that, but here am completing the words I began with then.)

FranIAm said...

Jane!! I needed to see these words on your post and not just in my scrawl to have them make sense and a major revision has just been done. Thank you!

Oh our walk - it was brilliant, and then we all went back and worked at that house all day.

Grace upon grace.

The Trinity grows more alive to me and it is through this paper which is exploring the Trinity through art, poetry, story and prayer. (Rublev icon, The Gentian by Dickinson, The Three Hermits by Tolstoy and Tantum Ergo by Aquinas, which is a late entry.)

Special thanks to Jane and Paul.

And God!

Paul said...

What a privilege to be invited into the process.

I hope to get a copy of that paper in my e-mail, Fran, because I am so eager to learn what the Trinity is revealing to and through you. Hugz!

verification word: narcion. Was that the dope-addicted heretic?

Jane R said...

Paul, LOL.

Fran, maybe a Russian Orthodox chant would be fun too. You can probably find some online. I have two CDs of it and one of various kinds of Byzantine chant, but lent them all to the Adorable Godson last night. He asked for chant to help me be calm at night and I lent him all my chant-y CDs from East, West, and everywhere else. Plus Enya. :-)

I love your paper topic.

Ann said...

Thanks for some direction for Trinity Sunday- I am preaching.

Grandmère Mimi said...

The Trinity is our model for relating to God and relating to each other.

Song, the Trinity makes much more sense to me when I sing. Much in my faith makes more sense when I sing.

The title of one of Jane's books is When In Doubt, Sing.

Song in my Heart said...

Grandmère Mimi,

I read that book in January or February, not long before I started my blog. It is an excellent book, and one of the first in my "re-read when brain returns after exams" pile.

thank you for writing the book, Jane!