Tag Archives: Trinity

A Divine Conductor? (Part 2)

“But isn’t God like a divine conductor? (part 2)”
©️2020 by Gloria M. Chang

The Three One has no “internal conductor,” but can the Trinity be conceived as the “conductor” of human persons and the cosmos? 

What is the relationship between persons and the cosmos? From our material frames of reference, human persons are parts of the universe due to our bodies. We belong to systems within systems (internal biological systems, geosystems, chemical systems, political systems, the solar system, and so on). Relativity of parts gives rise to the myriad systems discoverable by our human minds.

Persons in the image of the Trinity, however, are destined for a wholeness beyond relativity. Persons are not merely individual parts of human nature, but unique identities transcending it. In the Incarnation, the Logos assumed human nature in its entirety. The interpenetration of the second person of the Trinity and our human nature reveals the interpenetration of each human person and the whole human nature.

In theandric oneness, persons dwell within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: every person is “in” us and we are “in” every other person, for we are essentially one in Christ.

“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

The cosmos has no separate existence from the theandric body. Each person contains the cosmos, and the cosmos dwells within every person. The cosmos is our very body, though in our current individualized state we experience ourselves “inside” it, and the cosmos as “outside” us. 

The resurrected Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary have provided glimpses of life beyond prepositions. Entering through closed doors and appearing instantly from one GPS point to another, the transfigured life infinitely surpasses Flatland experience. 

In the sixteenth century report by Don Antonio Valeriano about the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Juan Diego tried “to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady” by going around the hill at Tepeyac on the fourth day after her first appearance. He needed to attend to his sick uncle; he could not afford to run into the “Heavenly Lady.”

“But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill…” The rest of the story is legendary, and Juan Diego’s miraculous tilma remains as evidence of the unseen world.

Perhaps the Trinity may be seen as a “divine conductor” insofar as the interconnected parts of the universe are orchestrated in marvelous and intricate ways. From a poetic angle, the cosmos resounds like a “symphony” with silent and hidden melodies wafting through trees and under rocks, and whistling through clouds and galaxies. 

Then again, in light of progressive insights in science and philosophy, the notion of “interconnected parts” fails to account for the underlying wholeness yet to be discovered. The assumption that the “observer” stands outside the “observed” in a subject-object relationship is no longer tenable at the quantum level. 

There is more to reality than meets the eye. Deep mysteries lie beyond four dimensionality, such that even physicists have explored the idea of “pre-space” (David Bohm and Basil Hiley).

Jesus’ revelation of the primordial communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit personalizes the cosmos and reveals the multifarious faces of the communion of saints ever-present to our “4-D geometry.” The conductor-cosmos motif works just as well with a monistic, impersonal deity or principle, and therefore falls short.

We may not “see” or “touch” the Trinity and communion of saints, but we must be wrapped within them even now, as they have no longitude or latitude. “Where” would they be?

What is harmony? (Part 2)

“Is the Trinity like a musical harmony? (part 2)”
©️2020 by Gloria M. Chang

In a tonal song, all of the tones relate to a single key. Relativity of tones is at the heart of tonal music. Relativity is built into finitude itself, as form and limit give rise to systems of interrelatedness. Congruence of interrelated elements is perceived as harmony. 

The Trinity, however, infinitely transcends form, limit, and systems of relations. Systems revolve around a single principle which organizes disparate elements into a coherent whole. The elements interrelate as parts of a whole. But the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not parts; each person is God indivisibly. The Trinity has no “home key.” Persons, by virtue of their absolute diversity, cannot be systematized. Nothing “holds them together” as parts. Persons are “wholes” for lack of a better term; “part” and “whole” fall short as concepts as they are relative and give rise to one another.

Absolute identity (monad) and absolute diversity (triad) are simultaneous, neither having priority over the other—an indivisible circumincession of persons (“wholes”) without parts. The Three One transcends interdependence, interrelations, and relativity, all of which belong to the spatiotemporal domain of parts outside parts.

Since harmony is such a beloved concept, however, we may perhaps say that Trinitarian Love is an ineffable harmony beyond harmony

The Kingdom Beyond Four Dimensions

Feast of St. James

Matthew 20:20-28

What does the kingdom of heaven look like? Jesus never described it in precise scientific or geographical terms suited to the spatiotemporal domain, but always with suggestive images. Like the attempts of the Sphere to describe the third dimension to a two-dimensional Square in Edwin Abbott’s novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, unimaginable depths are lost in translation when communicating divine realities in 4-D linguistics. Jesus himself said that he spoke in “figures” (John 16:25).

Each parable or image of the kingdom reflects a tiny spark of a diamond with infinite faces. Using the language of simile, the kingdom of heaven “is like” a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl, a tiny mustard seed, leaven, and a net cast into the sea.

Sometimes the kingdom (term A) is not likened to a concrete noun (term B), but rather to a complex situation with a variety of characters. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who casts seed upon the ground, which grows day and night mysteriously (Mark 4:26-29). At the same time, the kingdom is like a man who sowed good seed, but whose field was sabotaged by an enemy who sowed weeds among the wheat while people were sleeping (Matthew 13:24-30). The kingdom is also described in the parable of the talents, the ten virgins, the marriage feast, the laborers in the vineyard, and the unmerciful servant. The kingdom is populated by the childlike and the poor; the rich enter only with difficulty. Those who detach from house, spouse, siblings, parents and children “for the sake of the kingdom” will be blessed abundantly both in this life and for all eternity.

With such multi-faceted images of the kingdom, the hearer cannot possibly “pin it down” to this or that concrete thing. Yet Flatlanders cannot help conceiving divine glory in terms they can grasp with the hands of their intellect. After multiple parables and examples, none of which suggested dominating power and position, the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus to ask for seats at his right and left hand (Mark 10:35-37). In the Gospel of Matthew, the request came from their mother initially, but Jesus’ response was directed at James and John in both Gospels. 

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” 

The timing of the request could not have been more discordant with Jesus’ latest intimations to his closest followers. He had just foretold his death at the hands of the chief priests and scribes, with details that he would be mocked, scourged and crucified before being raised on the third day (Matthew 20:18-19). Such an upcoming humiliation did not fit the picture of a commandeering monarch. The request seemed to have come out of left field.

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 

Like Peter’s easy declaration that he would stand by Jesus in his darkest hour (Matthew 26:33), James and John glibly volunteered to share in Christ’s suffering. They had no idea what they were promising, as all three of Jesus’ inner circle ran away from the garden of Gethsemane with the rest of the band (Mark 14:50).

James and John would ultimately share the divine cup of suffering, Jesus foretold, but deferred any prospect of heavenly “positions” to the Father.

When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Were the other ten jealous in overhearing this conversation? Their lack of peace revealed an inner vexation at the possibility of being surpassed by their peers. A negative competitiveness was brought to the fore. Yet vying for the first and second positions in a kingdom barely understood was certainly odd. Instead of concentrating on being and becoming a person fit for the kingdom, the focus shifted to one’s status relative to others. Such ambitions are vain and the opposite of childlike, for status, in itself, is empty. Even a spiritually undeveloped person may sit in a seat of honor. Such “glory” is no glory at all, but a facade. Far happier is the unknown but grace-filled person.

The kingdom in the image of the Trinity is one of reciprocal self-emptying—a circumincession (interpenetration) or perichoresis (“dance”) of persons within one another. No person stands over against another in a lordly manner as the oneness of communion precludes such juxtaposed relativity rooted in four-dimensional experience. 

In the kingdom beyond, thoughts about position and status will not even occur as they arise from the realm of relativity. Cognition in this world is a lot like that of the Square in Flatland. What mystic consciousness in the Trinity will be like surpasses the power of mind immersed in untransfigured matter to conceive.

During our earthly 4-D pilgrimage, the way to greatness is smallness, and the kingly person is a servant. Spiritual truths do not cater to comfort, but mirror the Cross of self-negation. Relativity is the framework for diminishing and diminishing until our nothingness becomes the all in all of Trinitarian Love.

-GMC

Beyond the Deuce

16th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Matthew 12:46-50

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” 

Jesus looked like any ordinary Jew of his day. He entered creation in the womb of a Jewess Virgin, received milk at her breasts, and grew up within the sheltered family circle of Mary and Joseph as son, grandson, nephew, and cousin. Life as a human being necessarily limited him by country (space), date of birth (time), culture, gender, race, physiology (blood type, height, weight), etc. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, however, all of his “DNA” came from the Woman; biology cannot peer into this mystery.

Eternally begotten of the Father, the Christ was simultaneously begotten of the Virgin in time. The new humanity came to birth without the seed of man, transcending the deuce, having his origin beyond countable numbers, sequentiality, halves, wholes, and fractions. 

The Three One God completely bypassed the yin and the yang upon entering creation. A world in which nothing escaped relativity received in the Virgin an infinite, absolute, incomprehensible treasure in an earthen vessel. “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18). Divinity cannot be perceived by faculties that require circumscribed objects, including mental concepts.

But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Jesus’ mission in time as the Incarnate Son of God in a particular human form found its telos in the form-transcending new humanity: union and communion in the Triune Absolute. Whatever communion will “look like,” it will be utterly beyond what eye or mind can conceive. Multi-personal unity simply cannot be imaged or limited by formal concepts. 

The resurrected state in the image of the Trinity transcends form and species, for unique persons are neither of these relative concepts. Indeed, even the concept “person” is merely a placeholder representing an unnameable reality—a common term denoting diversities that are utterly uncommon. Naming, in this world, is immersed in relativity. To name is to distinguish among relative entities sharing a common bond of being.

Persons in the Trinity do not “share” the divinity, but each is the divinity indivisibly. In Christ, human persons also do not “share” the theandric nature, but each contains the whole Christ indivisibly, distinct from the Son and other persons only by their unique identities. 

What distinguishes the Divine Persons? The question has no answer, for any answer arises out of the realm of relativity, which absolute diversities transcend. The question also presupposes a “what” outside of the Persons by which to compare or measure them. Any “what” outside of the Trinity would be a rival Absolute, which is inadmissible.

In Trinitarian theology, “generation” and “spiration” are placeholders in the world of concepts in the attempt to grasp the ungraspable distinctions of the Son and Holy Spirit from the Father and from each other.

The Trinity transcends ontology, having no prime analogate among the Three Persons; that is, none of the Persons contains the fullness of an abstract, phantom “personhood” in which the other two participate in a relative way. Absolute diversity casts out relativity.

Speaking as the formless, limitless, universal Son of God, Jesus revealed that in his hidden divinity he has no “relatives.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit utterly transcend relativity, and so do followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Identification with Christ is union with the Father’s will, and one who is in union is his “brother, and sister, and mother.”

-GMC

Trinitarian Cosmos

Slavic icon of creation

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Mattthew 13:1-23

Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

In the light of St. John’s Prologue, this colorful, poetic prophecy of Isaiah is suggestive of the Trinitarian presence within creation: the Holy Spirit of life and fertility continually waters the earth, and the efficacious Word proceeding from the mouth of the Father unfailingly fulfills his will. The divine presence permeating all things assumed the entire cosmos and humanity in the Person of the Son, and bestowed upon them the seed of immortality by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

From the smallest quark to the furthest galaxies, all of creation “awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” Humankind and the cosmos are not two, but one in spiritual and metaphysical solidarity. The deification of the cosmic, multi-personal Body began at the moment of the Woman’s “Fiat!” on behalf of Adam and his children. 

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

The Greek original for “bodies” is actually singular. Our Body encompasses the universe which is turned as one (uni-versum) towards the Trinity, and our communion personalizes every particle of matter. Nature is not impersonal but bears the stamp and breath of Three Divine Faces shining from within. At the level of matter, the immeasurable cosmos with its billions of light-years dwarfs the human figure, but each and every child of Adam utterly transcends it in person—the hidden “who” begotten in the Father’s Womb in the image of his Son. From the beginning, Adam’s vocation as King of the Universe was to divinize and personalize the universe in his Body. During this time of exile and return, something akin to consciousness—a mysterious desire—continues to radiate from matter in its yearning and groaning for transfiguration.

Christ, King of the Universe, fulfilled Adam’s vocation by crucifying in our Body the primal rebellion and making possible our adoption as children of the Father. However, the task remains for each person to freely respond in grace and be “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3), dying to ego-separation from the whole and rejoining the One Many communion in the Trinity.

Personal response in the hidden depths of the heart is known only to the Father who knows us better than we know ourselves. The subjective element in receptivity is primary in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. The Holy Spirit whispers continually within and without both in nature and in divine revelation, but persons are ultimately responsible for tilling a fertile ground for the seed to take root, flourish, and bear fruit. Hidden in the bosom of the Father, we can help one another without conscious awareness. The receptivity of one mysteriously awakens the receptivity of others by virtue of our metaphysical unity. A single good thought or intention sends out an energetic love in synergy with the Spirit more powerful than all the invisible lines of force in electromagnetism. 

“The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 260). 

-GMC

Letting Go

Our Lady of Guadalupe

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The way of the Cross is paved with losses one after the other. In searching for the pearl of great price, illusion after illusion peels away until we arrive at the dimensionless core: nada. We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it (Job 1:21). 

Losing our life to find it is essentially giving up what was never ours to begin with. Not a breath or a heartbeat is our own achievement. We are, at bottom, ex nihilo—created out of nothing. At the border between being and non-being the mind disappears into a cloud of unknowing and can see no further, as Ultimate Reality lies beyond the dyad of thinker and thought. 

If the possessive pronoun “mine” is really an illusion, we are simply stewards of time, life, relationships and circumstances. Each person is dealt a certain set of cards to be played in a limited space of time. 

We did not choose our parents, culture, epoch, blood type, height, race, gender, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Our individual selves in this world are fragments of Adam, borrowed elements for the exercise of our personal freedom in this journey to our eternal Source. Returning in Christ to the Father, we become whole and distinct persons, possessing in common the union of all fragments as our own Body. What is possessed by all is possessed by none. “All mine are thine, and thine are mine” (John 17:10).

Familial ties belong to our fragmented, biological condition. Persons transcend and encompass all tribes, cultures, nations and tongues. Even the biological role of the Blessed Virgin Mary was  provisional and limited to her earthly sojourn. In communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Mary is an indescribably glorious person transcending the root of Jesse and the Davidic line. 

To the woman who said, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” Jesus responded, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27) In no way was Jesus diminishing the role of Mary—the Theotokos was the exemplar of all those who “hear the word of God and keep it”—but her physical motherhood was put into perspective. Neither Jesus nor Mary are Jews in heaven, but persons transcending all cultures. From Our Lady of Guadalupe to Our Lady of Akita, Our Lady of Fatima to the Black Madonna, Mary is Mother to all nations and races.

Apparitions to humankind necessarily use forms and names in order to reach our limited mode of knowing. Communion in the Trinity transcends the dyad of motherhood and fatherhood, but we are like children being gathered into the bosom of the Father. 

Divine love (agape) gives parents, children, siblings and friends the freedom to follow Christ wherever he wants to lead them. Clinging to our loved ones and boxing them in to satisfy our own needs is against reality. A child born into the world is not ours, but the Father’s. By letting go, we flow with the grace of the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father.

Spiritual motherhood and fatherhood are universal: we may offer a “cup of cold water” to Christ’s “little ones” anytime, anywhere, opening our hearts to the family without boundaries.

-GMC