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The mystery of the trinity

How do you explain three persons in one God, the diversity in their perfect union?
/ 05:13 AM May 27, 2018

One of the most difficult doctrines to talk about is the church doctrine on the Trinity, the feast we celebrate this Sunday. So, we shall not talk about the “doctrine,” but about the “difficulty.”

The difficulty lies in what I would call the tension between two extremes: the divine majesty of the Father, Son and Spirit on the one hand, and finding them in our day-to-day life—finding God in all things, as Ignatius would put it—on the other.


This is core to our faith, the irony, the paradox, the tension of opposites: “In dying we are born to eternal life”; “Whoever loses his life will save it”; “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last and the servant of all.”

We have the Father as the Creator, the Great Omnipotent and Omniscient God; and the Son, Incarnate, the Word made Flesh, the Emmanuel, God with us. Then there is the Spirit who is present in everything and everyone, both Omnipotent/Omniscient and “Incarnate.”


This is further complicated by our present context, when we seem to be heading toward losing our sense of mystery. A common scenario, for example, is when someone asks, “Who is the mother of so and so?” Before any “guess” is made, someone has “Googled” so and so, and is reciting all the facts and figures, with a picture to boot!

What is the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of paradox? How do you explain three persons in one God, the diversity in their perfect union? It is in the understanding of the mystery of the Trinity as the perfect community of love, the mystery of love, that perhaps we can find a lead.

Nel Noddings, educator and philosopher, points to four components of the ethics of care in education, namely: modeling, dialogue, practice and confirmation.

She defines modeling as showing how we care in our own relationships, being an icon of care. But beyond and prior to being iconic, it is the dialogue that becomes both the starting and the inflection point in caring. It is the foundation of caring.

Honest presence

Noddings describes dialogue as a process that is open-ended, with no preconceived ending. This requires an honest presence to one another, as a way to know each other and make caring possible.

This inflection point of caring is the heart of the mystery of loving, and of the Trinity. This allows the two other components, practice and confirmation, to come into play.


Practice is to create opportunities for all to experience caring, opportunities to care and be cared for.

For confirmation, Noddings turns to the eminent Austrian-born philosopher Martin Buber whose 1923 work, “I-Thou,” influenced many philosophical fields, including the philosophy of education. From Buber, confirmation is “an act of affirming and encouraging the best in others.”

This is what we say in our work in public schools, that a school and a teacher’s mission is to love students into excellence. This is the confirmation in a school as a caring community, where excellence means inspiring them to be the best they can be in terms of intelligence, skills, relationships, and service, all synthesized into their becoming loving persons themselves.

The Trinity is a perfect example of modeling, dialogue, practice, and confirmation, yes, among themselves, but more important, for and with us.

In their decision to send the Son, they entered into a dialogue with humanity and the whole of creation.

This is the inflection point of the Trinity, entering into humanity and engaging us in dialogue and conversation, giving us opportunities to practice, to follow the Son, “the way, the truth and the life.” This makes humanity a shared humanity with God himself, and through this, with “all men and women of good will.”

The confirmation is the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Pentecost. It’s the pattern of the Paschal Mystery in our life that makes us the best of who we are and can be, living a life of mission in love and service.

Perhaps mystery is not to be “explained away,” but to be experienced. An honest presence allows both the mystery and us to unfold into excellence, making us more loving and caring.

We pray for this grace in our life, and we pray for this grace, too, for all the communities we are part of—our families, our neighborhoods, our work places, our church, our nation, our world.

May we all be more loving and caring, building caring communities with great soul and loving each other into excellence. –CONTRIBUTED

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