Today is Trinity Sunday, when the Christian church worldwide reflects on the nature of God as Holy Trinity. The problem is, of course, that words fail us. How could ordinary mortals put into words the mystery of the eternal God, the source of all Being, the fount and origin of all life, the One who is Goodness, Truth and Beauty? The great C20th theologian Karl Barth put it this way: ‘If we speak of Him, we are no longer speaking of Him’. God is beyond human language.
But we have to use language, simply because we are human, and language is our unique gift. In the early centuries of the Church’s life, thinkers and theologians wrestled with the mystery of God’s being. Emerging out of the Jewish faith tradition, with its stern insistence on the indivisible unity of the one God, how could the early Christians adequately express their understanding of Jesus, their overwhelming sense of the Spirit? Their answer was to hold together all their different experiences of the divine in one understanding of God as Trinity: Jesus is the ‘human face of God’; the Spirit is the one who animates all that is; God is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
Words may be just ‘dim reflections in a mirror’, though. In the Orthodox tradition, ikons offer a way of exploring the mysteries that language cannot encompass. Perhaps the C15th Russian artist Rublev can help us explore Trinity.