Those who follow such things will tell you that in many parts of the wider church May 31 will be celebrated as “Trinity Sunday.” For after remembering the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost last week, it’s only appropriate to shift our focus to just how the triune nature of God actually works. The only problem, of course, is that nobody can actually tell you that!
In the first four centuries of the church, for instance, much effort was spent to try to define the “internal Eternal” relationships more clearly. Some, following Arius and others, argued that Jesus was something more than man, but less than God. On the other hand, Athanasius, perhaps the most skilled thinker of the fourth century, countered that it’s only if Christ is God that we can actually have contact with God in Him. And so he declared that “in the Unity of this Godhead there are three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
In the end, Athanasius and his substance (ousia) distinction prevailed. But I have a feeling that most of us would probably still be more like the young boy in Sunday School who was asked by a visiting bishop once to define the Trinity. The lad had both a heavy tongue and noticeable accent, so he said simply, “Fahthuh, Thun, and Holey Spirith.” And when the bishop replied that he couldn’t understand him, the boy quickly answered, “You’re not supposed to–it’s a mystery!”
Hopefully what will be sufficient today is simply to know that in the person of Christ we can by faith see the heart of the Father, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit we can yet experience the power of God in our lives. For just as the Father sent Jesus, so the Master once told us, so He sends us into the world today with the promised Paraclete right at our sides, so that we may be one with Him just as He is eternally one with the Father and one with the Holy Spirit.
And that’s indeed worth celebrating.
Even if it is a mystery.