We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, we worship the undivided Trinity, for It has saved us.
Ми бачили світло Істинне, ми прийняли Духа небесного, ми знайшли віру істинну, нероздільній Тройці покланяємось, Вона бо спасла нас.
The Monday after Pentecost, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
As Ukrainian Catholics, these words are among the very first we learn. The sign of the cross — used frequently and generously — is familiar, repeated in threes, with three fingers held together. We often repeat liturgical prayers three times as well.
The number three signifies completeness and wholeness in many cultures throughout history, but our focus on threes reinforces our understanding of God as three persons in one being.
Like the early church communities, our Faith is based in the Trinity; we are Trinitarian. But what does being Trinitarian mean?
The idea of one person being three persons is baffling, to say the least, but the Trinity is the formulation of our human experience of God. At the same time, reflecting on the Trinity reveals God to us in a way that is extraordinarily engaging. The Father, Son, Holy Spirit not only provides the basis for the formation, existence, and meaning of Church but it can also richly inform our personal lives.
In our Faith Tradition, we have icons (visual prayer) to help us contemplate the tribune God. In iconography, we see the Trinity as the three weary travelers of the Genesis story (18:1f.), invited into Abraham and Sarah’s home to eat and rest. This icon of the Trinity is also known as the Hospitality Icon, because of the generosity of the couple towards strangers.
The three strangers were later revealed as angels, heavenly beings, who, in gratitude and thanks, announced that a child would be born to the elderly couple, long past their childbearing age. Their invitation and generous welcome to “others” resulted in the lineage that would in time lead to Christ.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit (in the iconographic image) sit at a dining table eating. They are hungry, tired, in need of help. Could this be God? Needy? The figures of Abraham and Sarah join in a circle formed by the three, separate but identical figures.
The circle suggests a flow of movement that sweeps us, as the observers, into it. The need of the figures is served by the welcome of the hosts who are served by the gratitude and contentment of the guests. In the circle we are embraced into a flow of interdependence, where we support and serve each other, regardless of our neediness.
This dependence on one another and the circle itself creates a wholeness, that paradoxically is in motion, always and continually sweeping in the stranger, who cannot remain a stranger in the embrace. This is the movement of Love — Divine Love — that is so giving, so overflowing that it must spill over to another.
Hence God, as Love, cannot possibly be one person, since love in its essence must go beyond itself to others. This movement of love to another — to a stranger — moves through relationship. We grow in love from giving and receiving, and then, necessarily, through loving relationship we include others into this dynamic community.
Finally, Trinity exemplifies community: the community that we, as Christians, can ceaselessly strive to create by a loving embrace of those in need.