Trinity Sunday at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: Ex 34:4-9; 2 Cor. 13:11-13; Jn. 3:16-18
There was a mother in the glens of Ireland who had an only son; he was a proper lad, very fine to look upon. His eyes were bright blue-like the morning sky at sunrise, and when he spoke his voice was like music. Girls watched him smile, and found there was no more heart left in them. His equal was not to be found among the isles. All this he was to his mother and much more. He was her dawn, noonday, and evening tide. But then a war came and he fell. She died, too, not her body, but her heart. There was no end to her grieving. At last an angel of God was sent to comfort her, and offered ways to heal such a wound. First, he offered the gift of forgetfulness, but she would have none of that. She never wanted to forget the loveliness of his face. Next, he offered the gift of another child. That would be wonderful, but her heart would still bleed for the son she lost. Finally, the angel offered her the extraordinary gift of having her son back. “Yes, she cried, I want him back.” The angel agreed. The heavens opened and she saw her son in an ecstasy of happiness, his face was radiant like the sun itself, shining so intensely she could not see what he was seeing, the vision of God the Father, infinite goodness pouring into God the Son, and reflected back with infinite love in God the Holy Spirit. The body of her boy was arched like a bow pointing upward in the sky, his heart like an arrow soaring into the midst of God’s own infinite happiness. The arms of God’s love were wrapped around him, cradling her boy in a tenderness she had never dreamed of. Then she saw the angel approaching her son to bring the lad back to her. “Wait!” she cried, “Let him be. It is I who must come to him, not he to me.” “But,” the angel said, “your heart is still bleeding.” “Let it bleed,” she replied, “it only bleeds for me. He is where I want him to be, his happiness is mine. I will feel his absence, and I want to miss him. But I do not want to take his happiness from him. Someday I will be with him in God’s embrace. I can wait.” That day she went outside for the first time since the boy was buried. As she passed along the country road and greeted her neighbors, they said to one another, “Did you see her eyes? They are bright blue, like the morning sky at sunrise, and her voice, it is like music in the air.“
We are citizens of heaven. Earth is not our homeland. We have received the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, to become like that Irish lad swept up in an ecstasy of happiness, the same happiness that is enjoyed by the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Many of our loved ones already enjoy the prize of life with Christ in heavenly places. That is where our treasure is. We will come to them, maybe not today or tomorrow. But some day. If it seems slow in coming, wait! It will surely come, it will not delay.
Trinity Sunday at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: Prv 8:22-31; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15
Being made in the image of Christ, followers are imitators of the Holy Trinity. Imitators do not perform on their own power; they perform on the power of the one they imitate. For us, that power is Christ’s Holy Spirit.
What we imitate is kenosis, the self-emptying of the Trinity as an act of love. This is an act of love and the RB prescribes it as humility, a concrete expression of love. It is a preference for the self-emptying love of Christ over self-love.
The Greek word kenosis means “to be empty” or “of no effect.” Such emptying is the main expression of the Christian faith. Kenosis lies at the very heart of the life of God as Trinity. This is consistent with our definition of God as love, as seeking the good of others for the others own sake. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God we are inclined to this same freedom from the bondage of self, but our fallen natures make life a constant experience of tension between self-centeredness and self-emptying.
The Trinity is commonly understood as a way of existing in which one’s total existence is for the other. That self-giving between the persons of the Father and the Son is a person: the Holy Spirit. We remembered the Spirit being given to us last Sunday at Pentecost. To deal with that tension between self-centeredness and self-emptying we need the power of Christ’s Spirit. This is the power by which He emptied Himself at the Incarnation. It is the power shown in His earthly ministry of kindness to others while renouncing its use for self-interest. And it was shown in His passion and death. In short, it is the power to be vulnerable.
How do the persons of the Trinity show humility? The Father showed it in the risk He took in creation. He made Himself vulnerable by making us free to respond to His love…or not. He renounced control over us as a sign of His humble love. In making us, a relationship was established and that made Him vulnerable. The central element of the Father’s humility is His unconditional and limitless self-emptying love.
The Son shows us the self-emptying of the Father by His self-giving life. He thereby frees us from knowing ourselves only as having a history of humiliations, of pleasant and no-so-pleasant events. Our lives are no longer valued by satisfaction, but by “adding-to” the lives of others. The Son’s vulnerability is seen in every crib and cross we encounter.
The Holy Spirit’s humility is in its anonymous and faceless revelation of the love of the Father and Son, poured upon each of us in ways that are inexhaustible and always new. Yet, such actions of the Holy Spirit are often rejected. Like the Father & the Son he consents to be vulnerable.
St. Benedict, in his Steps of Humility, encourages us to imitate this humility, to resolve our life-tension in favor of self-emptying. He promises at the end of the steps that we will arrive at “a perfect love”, a perfect freedom from the fear that accompanies a life focused on self-satisfaction. But we stumble on those Steps of Humility. Each step is designed to increase our vulnerability. It threatens the contrasting step of Pride that St. Bernard writes of. Vulnerability is repugnant to us. After all, we become adults in order to avoid the vulnerability of children. But Jesus wants the little children to come to Him.
Let us bear in mind, then, the words of theologian Francois Varillon: “As long as we walk on earthly roads, humility… must be understood as beyond our reach. For the instinct of ownership does not avoid seizing upon [humility] as an object which [we] enjoy… [Enjoyment] takes root and grows and thus destroys it. Only God, by making us aware of the fact that we cannot be humble, makes us humble. The victory of humility can only be the admission of its defeat.”
So we’d best do this as a community.