May 13th, 2019 by Dave Leave a reply »

Only Emptiness Is Prepared for Fullness

Sunday, May 12, 2019

In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus:
His state was divine,
yet he did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself.
Philippians 2:5-7

Could this first stanza from one of the earliest hymns of the church be applied not only to Jesus, but also to the entire Trinity? I believe so. The Three all live as an eternal and generous self-emptying, the Greek word being kenosis.

The Franciscan philosopher/theologian Bonaventure (1221–1274) described the Trinity as a fountain fullness of Love. Picture three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into the Son, nothing held back. The Son empties into the Spirit, nothing held back. The Spirit empties into the Father, nothing held back. The reason they can empty themselves out is they know they will be filled again. They know that the center of the universe is infinite love.

But if you don’t believe that infinite love is the center of the universe, you live in a scarcity model where there’s never enough—food, money, security, health care, mercy—to go around. You can’t risk letting go because you’re not sure you’ll be refilled. If you’re protecting yourself, if you’re securing your own image and identity, then you’re still holding on. Your ego remains full of itself, which is the opposite of kenosis. This is the nature of almost all human institutions and systems created by the egoic mind.

Interestingly, the names, roles, and energies of each member of the Trinity are interchangeable. It’s not that important to typecast the Father as the only infinite one, the Son as the only immanent one, or the Spirit as the only intimate one. All is absolutely given to the other and let go of; but for the sake of human understanding, it’s helpful to identify three persons with different functions and gifts.

When all three of those divine qualities start drawing you, and when you’re at home with Infinity, Immanence, and Intimacy—all Three—you’re living inside Trinitarian spirituality.

I have often noticed these divine qualities in people who are marginalized, oppressed, called “poor,” or “mentally disabled” more than in many others. They have to trust love. They need communion. They know that only the vulnerable people understand them. They want to be in mutual relationship. They find little ways to serve others. They know that only a suffering God can save them.

You can take such a pattern as a sign that one lives in God. People filled with the flow will always move away from any need to protect their own power and will be drawn to solidarity with the powerless, the edge, the bottom, the plain, and the simple. They have all the power they need—and it always overflows, and like water seeks the lowest crevices to fill. No wonder Christians begin their spiritual journey by being dipped into water.

Practical Participation
Monday, May 13, 2019

The all-powerful truth of the Trinity is the Father, who created us and keeps us within him. The deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we all are enfolded. The exalted goodness of the Trinity is our beloved Lord: we are held in him and he is held in us. We are enclosed in the Father, we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are enclosed in us. All Power. All Goodness. All Wisdom. One God. One Love. —Julian of Norwich [1]

Over the next few days I’ll share other writers’ perspectives on Trinity which have helped form and clarify my own thinking. Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s (1952–1997) book, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, has helped to make the Trinity once again practical and participative more than mere abstract theology. LaCugna wrote:

The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately a practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian life. . . . The doctrine of the Trinity, which is the specifically Christian way of speaking about God, summarizes what it means to participate in the life of God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit. The mystery of God is revealed in Christ and the Spirit as the mystery of love, the mystery of persons in communion who embrace death, sin, and all forms of alienation for the sake of life. Jesus Christ, the visible icon of the invisible God, discloses what it means to be fully personal, divine as well as human. The Spirit of God, poured into our hearts as love (Romans 5:5), gathers us together in the body of Christ, transforming us so that “we become by grace what God is by nature,” namely, persons in full communion with God and with every creature. . . .

Christians believe that God bestows the fullness of divine life in the person of Jesus Christ, and that through the person of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit we are made intimate partakers of the living God (theosis, divinization). . . .

God is not self-contained, egotistical and self-absorbed but overflowing love, outreaching desire for union with all that God has made. The communion of divine life is God’s communion with us in Christ and as Spirit. . . .

God moves toward us so that we may move toward each other and thereby toward God. The way God comes to us is also our way to God and to each other: through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our faith, confessed in creed and celebrated in the sacraments.

Confessing faith is incomplete unless it becomes a form of life. Living faith in the God of Jesus Christ means being formed and transformed by the life of grace of God’s economy: becoming persons fully in communion with all; becoming Christ to one another; becoming by the power of the Holy Spirit what God is: love unbounded, glory uncontained.

Summary: Week Nineteen

May 5 – May 10, 2019

The mystery of Trinity is embedded as the code in everything that exists. (Sunday)

If we take the depiction of God in Rublev’s The Trinity icon seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” (Monday)

Trinity overcomes the foundational philosophical problem of “the One and the Many.” (Tuesday)

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality. (Wednesday)

The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. (Thursday)

God placed this alluring attraction of life toward life in everything that God created. Thus, we might say the Trinity is the soul of creation. (Friday)


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