The Holy Trinity Is like… Really Confusing

Confusion isn’t always a bad thing…

Re-presenting here, in honor of Trinity Sunday, my thoughts on the unfathomable Mystery of the Holy Trinity.  And by “unfathomable”, I mean totally confusing. I can tell you that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not three separate gods, but, rather, three different Persons of the same (only) God – but that doesn’t mean I can understand it. As a former atheist, then deist, who chose Christianity in 2002, I am actually grateful for the endless confusion that is this Mystery of the Holy Trinity. It was rather easy when I believed in God without the triune majesty aspect – it was like, God is one and I’m done. But, trying to understand God as three Divine Persons is, well… impossible for my little human brain. And that’s a very good thing. For, as St. Augustine says, “Why wonder that you do not understand? For if you understand, then it is not God.”[1]

Consubstantial

Over the last 2000 years, there have been countless explanations and teachings about the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, all of which are worthy of contemplation, though, in the end, poor shadows and incomplete. But, I wanted to share one here. It uses a simple comparison to a very common substance on earth: H2O, or water. H2O takes on three different and distinct forms: vapor, water, and ice. A glacier is not a river, a cloud is not a puddle, and steam is not an ice cube, yet all are the same compound of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. God the Father is not God the Son is not God the Holy Spirit, yet all three are the same divine substance – all are equal Persons of the one true, living God.

Let’s Go with That…

With this analogy of H2O and the Holy Trinity, I’ve often wondered which form of water might be like which Divine Person and why. My wondering led me to this thought: vapor is like the Father, ice is like the Son, and liquid water is like the Holy Spirit.

Father

No one “… has seen the Father…”[2] God the Father is, to me, the most mysterious of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. He is our Source, our Creator. He is over our heads, above us in being, like the clouds in the sky that send the nourishing rains. Therefore, water vapor is like God the Father, difficult to contain, always rising upward, if you will, toward the heavens.

Spirit

The rain that comes down to us from the heavens is like the Holy Spirit, sent to renew the face of the earth[3]. Water seeks containment, as does the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are mostly made up of water and Saint Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit[4]. The power of the Holy Spirit is given to us through the waters of baptism and it pools within us to give us true life – just as we need water to live. And yet, if water remains still it becomes stagnant, for it is its purest when it flows. So, too, the Holy Spirit seeks to flow through us, to work through us to erode obstacles and wash away sins. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit our cups run over and we share the abundance with others. Another thing about this analogy: rain always makes us look up toward the heavens, to the source – and the Holy Spirit in us causes us to cry out, “Abba! Father!”[5]

Son

The Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity really doesn’t need an earthly comparison. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, the Word of God made Flesh. He is made Flesh so that we may come closer to God, so that we may see God and hear God and touch God… and, through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, eat God. For this analogy of H2O, to better understand the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, I liken ice to the Son of God. Of the three forms of H2O, only ice has solid definition. Ice has definite shape and form, as does our Lord, Jesus. Ice can be held between our fingertips. We can smash and break ice. So humble and fragile was Jesus while He was with us on earth. And now, in the Eucharist, we can hold Him in our hands and we can crush Him with our teeth. (Mystery of Mysteries!) We can know that God is with us, substantially, given the right conditions, in the Divine Person of God the Son. Once He came to earth in the “ice age,” so to speak – and He will come again, as will another ice age. Meanwhile, when we receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, Jesus is substantially within us for a short while… for about as long as it takes for an ice cube to melt.

In the End

This is an interesting way to try to understand the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, but by no means is it the only or best way. God, by being God, is always, necessarily, beyond our ultimate comprehension. Truly, there is nothing else like God. All analogies that we humans make to try to better understand God are limited because they are human. But, because our souls will always long for God, even while we are limited, there is inexhaustible blessing in faith that seeks understanding.

 unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase
with additions © 2015 Christina Chase

[1] St. Augustine, Sermons 117, 5

[2] John 6:46

[3] Psalm 104

[4] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[5] Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6

She at Pentecost

On creaking knees, worn with repeated hours on earthen floors making bread and coaxing coals into flame, she now knelt in the upper room in the city – and prayed.

“This is how you are to pray,” she remembered her mother telling her when she was but a little child, standing not much taller than her mother’s knees. The older woman had bent down and had put her warm, wrinkled hands on either side of her face, looking deeply and sweetly into her eyes as she had continued to speak. “You are to pray to the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength. You are to pray as you are to love – with your whole being and without ceasing. For you must remember that you are always and everywhere in the presence of God and His Infinite Love.”

Remembering, she lifted herself a little higher on her own aging knees and pressed her hands upon her heart. Lifting her eyes to the invisible heavens, she was keenly aware of Heaven’s listening. “For Love,” she prayed in her silent way, with every fiber and synapse-firing of her flesh, with the peaceful, fervent purity of her soul. Her own particular affection for the people around her, gathered closely together in the upper room, drowsy with their own prayer, radiated like the soft fragrance of a rose on a still summer day. “Oh, my God, that they may be healed, bound, and filled with Love… this is the prayer in the heart of your lowly handmaiden to whom You, Most Gracious and Good Father, gave the most precious and sublime gift, in all mercy and generosity. My Lord and my God, my Creator and my dearly beloved son, You who are Infinite and Eternal, You whom I love and adore beyond all measure, beyond imagining, may Your Holy, Perfect, Loving Will be made known brilliantly to those faithfully gathered here, those who have labored and loved with you, those faithfully awaiting the Holy Advocate to lead them out into the turbulent world and into the sure forming of Your Kingdom. This Advocate is Love, Love most holy, Love most pure, Love Divine. You are Love, Lord. You live and give Love – infuse Love into the hearts and minds of your faithful disciples here.”

The night wore on, and while some ate and others slept, all were praying. As they served, as they chewed, as they dreamed, every action, voluntary and involuntary, was an action of prayer, for all were caught up in the net of spiritual vigilance, awaiting the word of release – without even knowing exactly for what they were waiting. Though some were fearful, she knew, all had faith… faith and trust, trust and hope.

Before the cock crew his song of awakening, before the light of the sun broke the slumbering darkness, she lifted her unsleeping head again, the pain in her knees the joy of a deeply planted tree. Her heart in her chest lifted to God, her arms outstretched, she gazed sweetly and deeply with maternal love upon the men and women gathered in the dimness whose prayer, even as they slept, was for the power of illumination of mind, heart, and will. Her own tenderly loving face was radiant with her wordless prayer… “Oh, my Little One, Mighty Lord and Savior… The cavern of sorrow that hollowed so deeply at my heart has been filled to overflowing with everlasting joy! Ever sweet, ever kind, ever generous, You allow my heart to beat with yours… to beat with theirs… I suffer when you suffer and triumph when you triumph… And still I long as You long, I ache as You ache, for every heart to be restored, for every human to be healed of all division that can keep them from Your Love… I yearn for the hearts of these, your own dear friends, to be dispelled of all darkness and lack of understanding, to be filled with Light… with Truth… with Courage… with Love.”

The wonderful sparklings of her mind reach deeply into her heart, through the universe, and beyond… “Once, was I overshadowed by Your Power, oh, Most High, and always and everywhere am I embraced by You, enraptured by Your Love. My Beloved One… the more I gave wholeheartedly to You, the more You gave wholeheartedly to me. The sacrifice of the mother is the bliss of the child of God – I am she! You know my heart! Ready, willing, and able, always and everywhere, to love You, to receive You, to hold You – and to give You away when You will… and the child heart within me rejoices to serve You and to be loved so intimately and infinitely by You.”

Joyful tears welled up in her eyes from her blameless heart. “Your Spirit came personally to me once in intimate mystery, I trust and believe that You will come, now, and send forth Your Spirit again to overshadow and lift up Your disciples here. Enkindle in us the fire of Your Love, Your Word breathed in flame, that we may ceaselessly bear forth the transformative power of Your Love to the hearts of others, everywhere, for generations to come… Your will be done, my Lord. My heart is one with Yours… I hear Your Love whispering now, cooing softly in the coming wind…”

*          *          *

            So quiet was she…. So filled with Love from the moment that she was conceived in the womb of her mother…. With empty hands she had given herself wholly and completely to her Creator, had lovingly surrendered herself, body, mind, heart, and soul to God….

Above the heads of the disciples, tongues of fire burned… above the beautiful humility of her head, the fire burned with the wings of a dove, with the caress of hands, with a baby’s kiss.

Unpublished work copyright 2015 Christina Chase


 You may also like these posts, more imaginings of the life of Mary:

A Stranger Appears in the Making of the Bread

  in the cloud of glory a portal opens

 Pregnant

The First Psalm and – Say What?

They say that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So true.

What to do with those spare minutes between the time when I’m finished my work on my computer and the time that I need to lie down and rest? In the past, this interval is when I would be tempted to play minesweeper or some other game. Later, I decided not to give into those (rather addictive) temptations. Instead, I used to maybe click on Facebook and scan down my home feed – usually not finding anything meaningful or even memorable. Or, maybe I would go over to ancestry.com and see if there was anything quick that I could explore – but there’s never anything quick, so I usually wouldn’t do anything. And, so, I have decided, rather spontaneously, to now take that brief, leisure time to read one Psalm from an online Bible.

Reading the Bible, ah, yes, something that I know that I should do as a believing Christian and something that I actually do want to do as a lover of Christ – but, it’s just so hard! Does that sound like I’m whining? Well, I guess I am a little bit. But, I’m not complaining, because I believe that the Bible shouldn’t be an easy, breezy read – life as a human isn’t easy, breezy, so why should a book written about us be so? I have been given much insight and understanding and even encouragement and love from reading short passages of Scripture. But, to read all of Scripture, every book in entirety? It overwhelms me. I’ve made many different resolutions to read the Bible, taking many different forms, like chronologically, or skipping around from book to book. But, I think that this new idea, reading one Psalm in free minutes – just one – might actually become reality. (Although I’ve only done it once since I made the decision almost a week ago, so… we’ll see….)

I began my new quest on Good Friday. I had just finished praying while watching The Stations of the Cross through my diocesan channel on YouTube and had some time remaining before I needed to get my poor body out of the wheelchair. I began with Psalm 1 – where else? And what did I read as a complete sentence with my eyes?………

“Blessed is the man who does not walk”

– and an instant reaction of a big smile spread across my face. A little perplexed for a fraction of a nano second – blessed is the man who does not walk?? – and then I saw my error and the great humor of it all at once. There was joy in it. For this didn’t come to me as a simple mistake made by my limited little brain, but, rather, as a kind of direct and personal message sent to me by the Holy Spirit through the words of Sacred Scripture.

Jews and Christians, who lovingly hold the Psalms in common, believe that the power of God inspired the writers of the Bible so that they would write what God intended. And since, for God, there are no minutes, or years, or decades, or millennia, or eons, but, rather, everything and everyone is immediately present to God, those writers did not just write those words for themselves or their own people in their own time – but, rather, for everyone, everywhere, for all time… for me, here and now. This is what God intends. God shall speak and we shall listen. We shall seek and we shall find that God provides… endlessly.

And so, God provided for me, in the digitized pages of the Bible, a little twist of divine wisdom to wind itself through my brain and into my mind and heart. With a simple line break, God provided joy and funniness – that sacred kind of funniness that is like irony, or somersaults, or jujitsu, or topsy-turvism. Perhaps, this was a divine message to me that I am blessed as I am, that there is actually special blessedness in disease and disability. Or, perhaps the divine intent was for me to make the mistake in reading so that I may be reminded that not everything is as it seems.

Or maybe it’s both.

It could be like God saying to me, “Do you think you know how everything works, Christina? Do you think that you have figured out the secret path of life and the way of the universe? Do you think that you are balanced and well-informed, knowledgeable and doing well? Well, flip this. Let’s shake things up, turn things upside down, and then see how well you do. I have told you and shown you many things… but there is so much more of which you are incapable of seeing and knowing while you are still right side up.”

“Blessed is the man who does not walk

… who does not stand

… who does not sit”

… and who does not lie.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Come On Baby, Light My Fire

Pentecost, for Christians, is when we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles – it is also referred to as the birthday of the Church. Like Fr. Finnigan said at the vigil Mass, the Holy Spirit animates (gives life to) the Church as the soul animates the body. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and so the Holy Spirit animates us as members of that Body. But… how animated are we? We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism, as well as Confirmation for Catholics – but then what do we do with this gift? “Holy Spirit? Oh, yeah, it’s in the back closet under my old yearbooks, behind the Thighmaster . I never really found a use for it, it’s just kind of in the way.”

As an atheist, I certainly didn’t have a use for the Spirit – but the Spirit always knew what to do with me. In those days, when I thought that I was opening my mind, I was actually closing it off to the fullness of reality. When I thought that I was more free to be truly myself, I was actually becoming an even more crippled version of myself, no longer firing on all cylinders: body, mind, heart, and soul. Then, one day, I was silent and still enough to listen… to hear… and then brave enough to accept that which we call God – infinite, eternal, Present Presence, undeniable and unshakable. Two gifts of the Holy Spirit were at work in me, unsolicited: Courage and Fear of (awe in the presence of) the Lord.

Sure, I don’t have the Holy Spirit in the back closet anymore – but can I really say that I am letting the Spirit light me up, burning like a fire in me? “Piety”, another gift of the Holy Spirit, isn’t somber gravity or some placid holier-than-thou isolation – it’s fully animated life. Active and restless in striving for and doing the will of God, a real pious person is, most importantly, JOYFUL. In fact, the Scripture reference to the gift of piety (Isaiah 11:3) speaks of delight. Not because the person is Pollyanna or too ignorant or unfeeling or selfishly pleasured to see sorrow, but because the pious person loves (really, not sappily) his or her fellow humans, loves life, loves the Source of Life, and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, loves living life as it is meant to be lived – and that delight is the deepest, truest joy.

“The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire…
Come on baby light my fire…”

© 2014 Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved


song excerpt from The Doors  “Come on Baby Light My Fire “