Anne Hunt OAM
Our belief in the Trinity – that there are three persons in the one God – is one of the central truths of our faith as Christians. It is a belief that, together with our belief in the incarnation, clearly distinguishes Christian faith from that of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. As
Christians, we believe that God comes to us, communicates with us, and
relates to us in three distinct ways as three distinct persons or subjects.
It is perhaps easier to articulate what we do not mean than what we do mean when we speak of the Trinity! We do not mean that the one God communicates in three different ways or modes at different times in our salvation history (which would be modalism). Nor do we mean that there are really three gods (which would be tritheism). What we do mean is that we believe that there are three persons (for want of a better word) in the one God.
Certainly, this is no easy mystery to comprehend. How even to speak coherently about our faith that the One God exists as three persons has taxed the minds of Christian thinkers for centuries. St Patrick found an analogy for the Trinity in the three-leaved shamrock. St Augustine explored the analogy of the human spirit with its capacities for remembering, for understanding and for loving. I am not going to try to explain it here. Try as we might, in the end, we’re not called to understand but to believe and to live lives of faith, hope and love. It is not our understanding but our loving that is the measure of our lives. And indeed love is precisely what this mystery of the Trinity is about.
But what does the great mystery mean for us and for our lives as Christians? It seems to me that the mystery of the Trinity challenges us
most of all, individually and as a community, to a wholehearted hospitality, welcoming the stranger, the lost, the lonely, the wounded, the asylum seeker, the refugee, and responding generously to their needs. It is then that we live true to our faith in God who is Trinity.
Dr Anne Hunt is rector of Australian Catholic University’s Ballarat campus and author of the award-winning book,Trinity: Nexus of the Mysteries of Christian Faith which explores the history of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, from early church teachings through to contemporary theology.