Trinity Sunday comes late this year, appropriately landing on Father’s Day and adding to the rich texture of June, a month that opens the door to a new season. So as we leave spring and slip into summer, we don the green of Trinitytide. The “extra-ordinary” time of Advent through Pentecost, celebrating the Son of God’s life on earth changes to “ordinary” time, a time of quiet growth and reflection on what that life means to each of us.
They say the Holy Trinity is a great mystery, how three persons can be one. And yet, as one grows in the faith, it seems natural. God the Father expresses himself as God the Son and later as God the Holy Spirit. It is said that love binds the three together, and no doubt this is true, but I would say that the three are all extraordinary expressions of love. Christ, the Son, is God’s loving incarnation, God’s healing and salvific sacrifice for us who brings us home to him. The Holy Spirit is God’s loving presence sent when the Son has ascended. God the Father provides for us, loves us, in all time, through all eternity. So we need never be lost. We need never be alone, afraid, unprotected.
Our culture celebrates Father’s Day to honor those who, on this earth, act to shelter us and love us in the same way our heavenly Father has done for his people since Adam and Eve. Our earthly fathers stumble, to be sure, for they are earthly, but their role as protectors and providers continues to be an ideal. We honor them for their hard work, their sacrifice of time and treasure, to provide for us. When they abandon us, we know they have wronged us. We know they are no longer fathers. For true fathers, like our Heavenly Father, never leave us. They never stop loving us, never stop sacrificing.
Fathers, like our Father in Heaven, discipline us so that we may learn right from wrong. They teach standards of behavior in an effort to raise us up, transforming narcissistic children into responsible adults. It is no coincidence that crime rises when fathers abandon fathering. In American culture, since the rise of easy divorce and the artificial separation of sex and procreation, too many fathers have run away from their children. Too many mothers have been forced to be fathers as well, and somehow, mysteriously, they can never really be both. In this, American culture has been grievously wronged.
We call the great theologians of history, those men who formulated and protected the creeds and canons of Christianity, our Church Fathers. They too took care of their children, the faithful. They gave them, gave us, through interpretation of Scripture, the words to express the truth of God and his love for man. They protected us from untruth, lies, heresy. Like Saint Athanasius, who fought Arianism with the Nicene Creed, they explained the Trinity to us, the truth of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The words of those Church Fathers, passed from generation to generation, continue to guide this Body of Christ, so that Christians have a great host of fathers to enlighten their dark and help them shoulder the perplexing dilemmas of living.
And, to be sure, the inheritors of those eminent Church Fathers, through Apostolic Succession, are the priestly fathers we know today. These men, through the Laying on of Hands, are consecrated to and with and by these creedal truths, vowing to unite God the Father with each of us through God the Son and by the power of God the Holy Spirit. These priestly fathers are, however, sons of Adam and earthly too, but they strive through grace and sanctification to give us a glimpse of heaven on earth.
The Epistle for Trinity Sunday for Anglicans is the fourth chapter of the Revelation of John. The passage recounts John’s vision of Heaven, and it is this vision that every Christian may glimpse from time to time. Hidden within moments of love, moments of sacrifice and suffering, we see God’s presence weave among us. We sense a glory close by, near enough to know. Angels hover about us, and if we can forget ourselves for a time, we can sense them. We need to be silent and listening, full of the words given to us by the Word, Christ, through Scripture, explained by the Church Fathers through the centuries. So we worship on Sunday, sing the Psalms and listen to the lessons. We hear our priestly father explain the great miraculous mysteries given to us. We meet God the Son at the altar and we sing God the Father’s praises as God the Holy Spirit moves among us.
This is the most Holy Trinity, the ultimate Fatherhood, when Love becomes one of us, dies for us, and gives us his Spirit to be with us always, even to the ends of the earth.