Trinity Sunday in Lockdown: A liturgy for use at home.
Mystery versus Riddle
Today is known as ‘Trinity Sunday’ and is one of the most unusual days in the whole Christian calendar. It is the day when we are asked by the cycle of feasts to reflect on what we say about God. We believe that we are drawn into the mystery of God – who is Father, Son, and Spirit – by the Son coming among us as one of us, the human being named Jesus. Jesus opened for us the way to the Father and he sent the Spirit to dwell in our hearts. The Spirit dwelling in our hearts makes us call out to God: ‘Abba, Father!’ The set of relationships we are caught up in is a mystery and we give it the name: ‘the trinity.’
Most of us tend – almost without thinking – to confuse a mystery with a riddle! When the trinity becomes a riddle we reduce the Holy One, blessed be his Name, to a game of arithmetic. Once I was going into my office on a university corridor and I saw fearful student outside the office opposite waiting for a viva voce exam. I said casually: ‘don’t worry, there’s life after exams!’ He replied that he was not nervous because ‘I have God all figured out.’ I thought to myself: ‘I have got to hear this.’ The student was glad to oblige. Counting on his fingers he said: ‘1 god, 2 processions, 3 persons, 4 relations, 5 notions.’ Mystery was just the jargon of theology to be learned off!
When we gather to pray
But mystery is that which we experience, which we just glimpse rather than understand, and which we never comprehend. We see it in every Eucharistic Prayer: we address the Father, we gather in the presence of the Son, and we are empowered by the Spirit. We live within this mystery all the time, but we seek to become conscious of this mystery when we pray. We gather to thank the Father, for sending us the Son who is among us and for the love he has shown us in the Son’s life, death, and resurrection, and we offer this thanks, this eucharist, in the Spirit.
So in our lockdown home liturgy we have to think that all our prayer, whether in a big gathering or a small one or alone, whether in our home or in a big church building, is within this dynamic.
We pray TO the Father, THROUGH the Son IN the Spirit.
A unique feast
This feast is unique in that the focus of our celebration is not an aspect of the history of salvation, but reflection on the nature of God as we believe it has been revealed to us as Christians. Thus every Sunday is the Sunday of the Trinity, every feast, every action has a trinitarian dimension, and should any prayer be uttered or homily preached which does not include that core of faith — at least tacitly with a conclusion such as ‘through Christ our Lord’ — then we are apostates, and have ceased to be Christians and become some sort of vague deists or unitarians who value the ‘message of Jesus.’ Our aim in today’s home liturgy should be to become more sensitive to the trinitarian cues that run right through our religion.
A liturgy for today
We have gathered here in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are a baptised people, we were baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, so the Christ is now present among us.
Someone else reads (Rm 8:14-7):
A reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
The word of the Lord.
Someone else reads this prayer – it is by an Irish bishop named Tírechán and was written about AD 700:
Our God is the God of all human beings.
The God of heaven and earth.
The God of the sea and the rivers.
The God of the sun and moon.
The God of all the heavenly bodies.
The God of the lofty mountains.
The God of the lowly valleys.
God is above the heavens;
and he is in the heavens;
and he is beneath the heavens.
Heaven and earth and sea,
and everything that is in them,
such he has as his abode.
He inspires all things,
he gives life to all things,
he stands above all things,
and he stands beneath all things.
He enlightens the light of the sun,
he strengthens the light of the night and the stars,
he makes wells in the arid land and dry islands in the sea,
and he places the stars in the service of the greater lights.
He has a Son who is co-eternal with himself,
and similar in all respects to himself;
and neither is the Son younger than the Father,
nor is the Father older than the Son;
and the Holy Spirit breathes in them.
And the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit are inseparable. Amen.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all in this house today and evermore. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And, finally …
You probably would like to know what happened to that student – this happened nearly thirty years ago and even he may not now remember it. He passed his exams, graduated, and was later ordained. I hope that today, wherever he is, he is well and that he has realised that God cannot be figured out!
God is always greater! Praised be his Name!