|Pen and Ink Reflections||
When my wife was ordained deacon in the Anglican Church, she was heavily pregnant with our twin daughters. ‘I am a holy trinity’, she famously declared in a subsequent homily. Of course, this was partly a joke, not a serious attempt to restate classic doctrine. Yet she was making vital points about the need to locate the great ecumenical doctrine of the Holy Trinity in life and experience, as well as in prayerful and intellectual rigour. We would certainly not want to over-exalt a female pregnant trinity, especially when its members are manifestly not equal or in reciprocity. However my wife had a case, I think, in drawing attention to deep aspects of mutuality, indwelling, and love. Not least she was highlighting how God as Holy Trinity is profoundly relational and embodied. For, whilst God in essence is transcendent, God’s energies are found dynamically in all aspects of our lives and world. In this sense. God in Holy Trinity is not only found in our variegated gendered experiences. God in Holy Trinity is always pregnant with possibilities of which we can but yet hardly dream. As Matthew 28.16-20 highlights, this is not only a declaration of profound loving mutuality. It is also an invitation to travel on to further transformation in the presence of a mystery which calls us into deeper being and becoming...
Today is Trinity Sunday, when the church tries to describe the indescribable; to point to the character and action of the Divine that is always dynamic and evolving. The early teachers of the church came to describe God as Trinity – three equal ‘persons’ or expressions of God, Father, Son and Spirit – or in the beautiful and more inclusive language of Julian of Norwich, the Maker, the Lover and the Keeper. It is a picture of God as a community of equality. That in itself is of immense importance in a world where inequality and autocracy tend to rise up as we have seen this week in the United States. The picture of God as Trinity shows us how God’s very being and nature is about relationship and love. How might this picture of God as Trinity help us in these days of change and challenge across our world?...
If we ever need to show how important relationships are in nurturing love and faith, Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger, and their family must be high on the list of examples. For on 19 July we particularly remember Gregory and Macrina, but other members of their family are also notable official saints in the Christian calendar: not least their brother Basil the Great, their mother Emiliana, and grandmother Macrina the Elder. This is a powerful reminder of how the relational webs of our lives are so crucial to us. Not least those women's names are also highly significant, as they point us to the usually deeply buried history of so many women in Christian Tradition, and to the vital contributions they made to the growth of the Church. Sadly, of course, even these we almost always receive through the records of men, who have filtered, through their own perspectives, the full female story. So, on 19 July for example, in the Anglican lectionary, we are able to honour Macrina the Younger. Yet this is only alongside one of her brothers, Gregory, and essentially it is by his references to her, and not through her own work directly, that we know something of her at all. This a great shame. For Gregory wrote both a hagiography, entitled the Life of Macrina, and a profound reflection, entitled a Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection, which he dedicated to Macrina, purportedly describing the deep conversation he had with her on her deathbed. These are wonderful, for they show to us a quite remarkable woman who was clearly a central spiritual influence and model for her family and the wider Church. Spiritually and intellectually, she shaped, in her brothers Gregory and Basil, two of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. In addition, within the limits of her times, she created new space for women. Yet, we might then wonder, despite Gregory's fine tributes, how much more is there which we may never know about her and about other women of her day. What we do have remains an inspiration to us today. For Macrina shows us what it is to be an outstanding sister in the Faith...
Shall we agree to disagree? No, we won’t. That has been the answer to that question through much of human history, hasn’t it? Isn’t it still the answer today in many places and in many parts of our own lives, including within the Anglican Communion today? As human beings we really struggle with the idea of unity on any other basis than what seems good, and restricted, to us. We see this played out, time and time again, in politics, in the great events of the world, in contested issues within the church and other community groups, and in our own family and personal lives. So praying for Unity and Reconciliation, as we do today, is a real challenge. For what kind of unity and reconciliation are we actually praying? Is it that our will, or God’s will, be done? Is a different answer to the question ‘shall we agree to disagree?’ part of this? I have been reflecting on these things over the last few days in relation to three key issues which have touched my heart: namely the terrorist bombing in Manchester, the campaign for Marriage Equality (a keynote Brisbane meeting of which I attended this week), and Australian Reconciliation. Each raise thorny problems if we look at them in certain ways. Yet they offer us encouragement to true unity with genuine diversity if we regard them in other ways. For how do we picture unity? It makes all the difference how we see it…
for Trinity Sunday 15 June 2014 by Jon Inkpin and Penny Jones
What kind of heretics are we? I sometimes ponder this question when Trinity Sunday comes around. Like the early church theologian Basil the Great, I suspect that whenever we speak of God we are risking heresy. For though we can know aspects of the energies of God, none of us know God in God-self. This because the doctrine of God as Holy Trinity is a proclamation of what is vital in our shared Christian Faith. Yet it is also an invitation to humility in the face of God’s indescribable mystery. As human beings we can, and often should, speak of our experience of God. At our very best however, we are little more than small children dipping out toes into the astonishing ocean of God’s love. We see so little and what we do see is very partial. We must humble ourselves to know more of the fullness of God. Sadly Christians are not always so humble. We have thus often ended up fighting over the very thing – God – which can bring us together. Can we do better?...