Trinity Sunday has gone and passed and I still ponder the mystery. Mysteries are perhaps something we live into more than ever understand. Two elements in Richard Rohr and Mike Morell’s book entitled The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation touched my heart especially as I reviewed that book: the Greek term “perichoresis” and the Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev.
Our early church Fathers understood the mystery of the Trinity, not in a static way as modern Christians tend to do but in an active way, as a dance. And they had a beautifully descriptive term for the Divine Trinitarian Dance “perichoresis”. Trying to understand it in English isn’t too difficult because from the prefix ‘peri” we get the word “perimenter” and from “choresis” we get the word “choreography.” So when the early church Fathers and Mothers used the word “perichoresis” it describes to us the dance of the Trinity, a creative way to view the creative and mutual love of the Father expressed through the Son and back to the Father, and of course, to understand that their mutual love is expressed in the person of the Holy Spirit. The really beautiful part is that we are invited into the dance, each and every day , as we journey with the God who is passionately in love with us.
The second element in the book that touched me was the Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev’s 15th century icon of the Trinity. The icon shows us “the Holy One in the form of Three—eating and drinking, in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves.” It shows a relationship of love where the three are circling a shared table, and if you look on the front of the table there appears to be a little rectangular hold painted there. Art historians say that the remaining glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. The hand of the Holy Spirit on the right side of the table is pointing toward that open or fourth place at the table. The invitation is for each of us! So we’re invited to the banquet and invited to the dance. What a wonderful awareness as we celebrate the feast of Trinity.
I want to add one more image that Ron Rolheiser also describes as an icon of the Trinity (Rolheiser, April 17, 1997). It’s a bit lengthy so be patient. He was on a plane going to Los Angeles to give a presentation at a conference. Across from him on the plane was a young mother and her preschool-aged daughter. He describes them as quiet until the captain announced the particulars of their flight, then the mother and daughter turned to each other. He says: “I don’t know if I can describe what exactly transpired between them, but it was a mystical moment. The child looked at her mother, smiled briefly and moved her whole body in a way that said, ‘We are really doing this! It’s finally here! We’ve talked about this for a long time and now it’s finally happening!’ Her body literally quivers with delight.” Later he found out it was a family trip to Disneyland. His description of her is profound; he says “she was happy and her body might well have been a musical instrument.” It wasn’t just her delight that Rolheiser first noticed and palpably felt, it was also the delight of her mother. If the daughter was overjoyed and basking in a special moment, even more so was the mother. Her body also quivered with delight – delight in her daughter’s joy, delight in her child’s anticipation, and delight in being able, as a mother, to provide this for her daughter. He says, her joy not only matched her child’s, it surpassed it, it was deeper, far deeper. Hers was the delight of being able to give delight, the joy of giving joy, the unique gladness of providing, of being source. To do these things is to do what God does and so to feel what God feels. That is what she must have felt.
Rolheiser goes on to say that “their exchange, that glance towards each other that made both quiver with delight, is an icon of the Trinity, as surely as is Andrei Rublev’s masterpiece. It captures a little of the river of life and love and gratitude that flows between the Father and the Son and creates a fire, an energy, called the Holy Spirit. To have that flow go through you is to know God.”
What was revealed in that moment look between the mother and her daughter? Rolheiser says: “What is revealed is the heart of God, the flow of life and gratitude that makes the Father and Son quiver in each other’s presence. What is revealed too, quintessentially, is how God, as creator and parent, blesses us and takes delight in us. Just as God, after creating each element in creation, stood back, beamed, and said “This is good” and just as God looked down upon Jesus at his baptism and said: “This is my beloved child in whom I take delight.” so is God still looking at us as we embark on our various journeys, so is God’s heart swelling still in sharing our anticipation, and so is God’s quivering with delight when we receive creation’s delight. God is enjoying the joy of a mother who can provide, just as God must surely suffer sometimes the pain of the mother who cannot.” He concludes by saying “On that plane, I was shown an icon of the Trinity.”
Perhaps it also helps each of us understand the words of John’s 14th chapter such as: “…No one comes to the Father but through me…whoever sees me has seen the Father…I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you always …[who] remains with you and will be within you…I will not leave you orphaned; I will come back…On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you…he who loves me will be loved by my Father… we will come to make our dwelling place with you…the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will instruct you in everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you…”. Trinity is a mystery for sure…a dynamic mysterious but exciting reality and we’re invited into the dance and to sit at the eternal banquet table as we gradually internalize the reality that our God who is Trinity is an extravagant and unconditional lover.
Many blessings to you from each of us. We’re hoping to see you in the Fall as we begin to offer some day programs. Keep your eyes on the website as we begin to formalize some events.