Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Clifton.


Sunday 16th June 2019
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year C
Proverbs 8: 22-31     Romans 5: 1-5     John 16: 12-15

What a Delightful Mess!

We always get ourselves into a mess when we start to ask questions about the Trinity. We begin to give answers that are woefully short of the reality which is God. And we put people off immediately by complicated terms that are guaranteed to stump all but the most persistent.

In the West, the Church took a telescope to look at the Trinity. It examined it from far off – an approach sometimes called ‘immanent’ because it thought of God in terms of the internal relations that existed between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Thinking of God in the heavens, it spoke of processions (movements) by which the Son came from the Father, and the Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son. It spoke of relations (connections) between the three persons. I’m sure that Paternity, Filiation and Spiration (both active and passive) were just about to jump from your lips!

So maybe you might prefer the approach of the Eastern Church. Instead of a telescope, they took a pair of binoculars to watch how God acted towards people on earth. This ‘economic’ approach (looking at how God acts in the history of salvation) allowed them to say things about the Trinity from observation of how God acts outside of himself in saving and rebuilding the world. It was still a mess.

Some modern scholars don’t like to talk about Father, Son and Spirit because of the masculine references to God. They prefer terms like Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. So where does all this leave us on Trinity Sunday? Perhaps we could take our cue from the Church’s liturgy which avoids all these blind alleys and just encourages us to delight in the unknowable magnificence of God.

God existed before time began, creating the beautiful universe and all that is in it. It was the Trinity that reached out to form a loving relationship with all that it had created. And it was that very same three-in-one God who redeemed us by taking on our human condition and continuing to inspire us to ever greater heights each day. When we worship the Trinity, we delight in this holy mess!




Scripture Reflections (below) © Peter J Harrison 2019