One of the healthy aspects of the Feast of the Trinity is that it reminds us how little we know about God – that our ideas about God are at best imperfect metaphors. While the metaphor of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is powerful and all around us in word, song and art, we are indebted to biblical scholars like Sandra Schneider who playfully reminds us “God is not two dudes and a bird!”

There has been a revolution in discourse on the Trinity in recent decades recapturing some ancient wisdom. To try to tap into this wisdom, recall with me tonight a recent moment of communal connection in your life. It may be a family moment of closeness. For those counselors/therapists among us in may be a particularly good session with a client. It could be prayer or meditation with others or it could be a moment of sharing/worship with your faith community. Whatever it is, recall the energy of the moment. We can feel communion, can’t we?

If we can feel the connection, the energy, between sharing people who are finite, just try to imagine the flow of energy in the infinite community of the Trinity. You see, at the core of our understanding of the Trinity is communion between persons within God. There is an energy, a flow, created by this infinite communion just like we experience with each other, but infinitely greater. We heard a few moments ago the famous words from John’s gospel “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” God is extending the circle of the Trinity to include us! What would it be like to imagine the Trinity as something to actually participate in?

A River of Life

When people of faith over the centuries have tried to put words to what it is like to enter the life of the Trinity they often speak of the metaphor of the river of life. This metaphor is everywhere. It is in the beginning in the Garden of Eden and in the end of the story in the final Book of Revelation. The psalms sing of the River and the prophets proclaim it. Just a few paragraphs after our gospel reading tonight Jesus would offer the Samaritan woman “living water” and a few chapters later he would say “rivers of living water arise out of the center” of those who follow Jesus (John 7). The river is also central to Hinduism where rivers, particularly the Ganges River, are gods. In Buddhism the teachers see the River as depicting their central belief that life is constantly changing, always in flux.

A spiritual person is a river enterer! The rite of baptism tries to capture this. The author James Finley delights in this image to explain the spiritual life in his classic book “Christian Meditation.” When we experience the life of the Trinity it is like getting wet in the River. He has much to say on this metaphor but a few recurring themes are 1) that this Life is moving, it is not static. Every moment of awakening (getting wet) is new because the River is always new; 2) It is abundant. There is no damp stage in the River. You get wet whether you are 8 or 80; and 3) The River is indiscriminate. You get wet whether you stumble into awakening by mistake or whether you have been preparing a long time. People who study books on rivers do not get more wet than those who do not.

Once we have been awakened and gotten wet we want to go back to the River again. We want to become habitual river enterers through meditation and other practices. We want to hang around with those who know the way. We want to learn from those who know about drop offs and undertows. We want to avoid those who act like you can control who enters the River. We are excited when anyone, from any place or tradition, enters the River.

Roadblocks to the River

Why are we not more aware of the River and entering the River more often? It might be our own imagination of God. Maybe we need to believe in the River and try to get past images of God as a stern patriarch.
I might believe the River is there but I am afraid. I cannot enter the River if I am hanging on to something on the shore. Experienced River Enterers tell us the River is moving, abundant and indiscriminate and I am too often just the opposite – stuck, preoccupied with what I do not have and very selective in my love. The River and I are too often on different frequencies.

I bet that one day when we see God “face to face” we will see the River is not far off. I bet we will be amazed that we were actually in the Life of the Trinity all of the time and the River is really part of us! Our masks blind us to this reality most of the time. But until that day, strengthened by the Eucharist and walking with each other, we can reimagine God as a community to participate in, and more and more be a community of River enterers.


George von Stamwitz

Sts. Clare & Francis Ecumenical Catholic Community
Liturgy for the Feast of the Trinity
Saturday Evening, June 14, 2014
Focus text: John 3:16-18

Photo by Bryan Jackson on flickr.com