The Trinity – ah we know all about that. Or do we? Insofar as the subject come into Catholic conversation – which isn’t very often – a secular eavesdropper would take in no more than that it is three persons in one God, that it doesn’t mean three Gods and that, being a mystery, we can’t understand it. That seems scant pickings from the most central and most important doctrine in our faith. We wonder that Frank Sheed, the great spirit behind the Catholic Evidence Guild, could carry out an enlightened dialogue on the Trinity with the miscellaneous crowd at Speakers Corner. I cut my teeth there too, under Sheed’s guidance – although I was too junior to speak of the Trinity and was confined to such simple subjects as papal infallibility.
In his classic book Theology and Sanity Sheed describes the Trinity. He explains the difference between person and nature, and shows how logically the persons of the Trinity take their place from the very nature of the infinity of God. Our understanding of God is greatly deepened while showing us why it is a mystery always to be mined even if we can never reach the bottom. And I am not going to summarise it here because Sheed’s masterpiece of rational theology is readily available on, say, Amazon. It is a simple book in the sense that Sheed developed it from his conversations with the crowd and, if they could understand what he was saying, so can we. If you read the book with care you will find that you know more real and relevant theology than almost anyone you meet – and I include clergy and bishops.
But I return to the Trinity. To which person of the Trinity do we most naturally pray? I think most naturally of the Father. I imagine that is because I am a father, and a grandfather and a great grandfather. I know something of the feelings and the love of a father and my limited grasp gives me starting cues which extended infinitely point me towards the Father after whom all fatherhood is named. But without a detailed check, I think I pray most often to the Holy Spirit. Sheed explains how the Spirit is the personalised fusion of the infinite love exchanged between the Father and the Son. That is almost too wonderful an idea for me to put to practical use. But I do find that the Spirit obliges me to come to terms with my real self (not always a pretty sight) and inspires elements in my thinking which I could not achieve without divine help. In my years of marriage counselling I saw the Spirit so clearly working in my clients as they struggled to surmount the tangle of their lives. The Spirit then was as plain as a pikestaff.
But enough of me, how do you see the Trinity? Is it a live doctrine for you or is it kept in a jewelled box in Heaven’s safety deposit – highly valued of course but rarely opened? To which person of the Trinity do you most naturally return in your thoughts? Whom do you most often feel is by your side? Come and share your thoughts about the Trinity, so that we can all understand more, and perhaps place the Trinity more centrally in our lives.