Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Catechism: The Trinity
My sole New Year’s resolution was to continue my series of posts on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) suspended nearly two years ago; but after seven days I have written nothing on the CCC. That’s not because of the nature of resolutions or because I can’t keep them; it’s because of the place I left off in February 2013.
Up next: the Trinity (paragraphs 232 ff.). The Most Holy Trinity is not only that on which “the faith of all Christians rests” (232) but also “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (234). Isn’t that a contradiction, a dilemma, and a cussed annoyance?
That my faith is supposed to “rest” on a “mystery” is more than my rational mind can handle. But is that then maybe part of the point?
Before moving on past these shoals by going around them (I may come back, don’t expect a miracle) here are a couple of thoughts about the Holy Trinity, amply covered by the CCC, paragraphs 232–267:
First, it strikes me that this morning’s mass reading (1John 4:11–18) was written by someone (John) who understands the Most Holy Trinity. This reading got me off square one, where the Trinity is concerned. Read it closely. Here it is.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
“No one has ever seen God.” Not Moses, not me. Yet we can know God’s presence (“that we remain in him and he in us”). We know this two ways, if I read John correctly. First, thanks to the Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity; second, through God’s Son, the second person, sent “as savior of the world.”
But then comes a sentence that seems to scramble things: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.” But I thought (previous paragraph) that it was enough to “love one another” to know that God is with us, and that this love was Spirit-based. But in fact, all three persons of the Trinity are involved in loving—not just being nice, not just trying to get along, but instead something that Christianity calls charity, true love. John seems to say that faith in Jesus as the Son of God is required for such love. So much for the can’t-we-all-just-get-along crowd.
I won’t even try to go into the third paragraph of the reading. Instead, I’ll end with my second thought:
I think that my thinking about the Trinity has been bollixed by years of exposure to the Gurdjieff spiritual system, about which you’ve probably heard more than you care. For me, though, stuck inside this bollixing, I have to care. It is a constant lurking presence in the back of my mind, and it’s time to exorcise it once and for all.
As I’ve written, Gurdjieff purportedly taught “esoteric Christianity,” but a Christianity that is strangely, sadly Godless. That is, Gurdjieff seemed to say that we could get the real benefits of Christianity for ourselves, without having to go through all the God motions required by organized religion, like devotions and liturgy and service and whatnot.
I bring up the never-less-than-awesome Mr. G here because he taught that the universe runs by two so-called fundamental laws: the law of seven and the law of three. Don’t get me started on the law of seven, which seems to prove that Christianity is necessarily a failed project. Its original impulse (do) must inevitably get lost as its octave develops. Like I say, don’t get me started.
The law of three speaks of trinities, but trinities everywhere. All actions involve “three forces,” according to this law. The good Christian might interpret this as meaning that all actions involve the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. But that’s not what the law says, or at least I don’t think so.
Not thinking so, I get lost in a tangle of thought, which was something I often did while studying Gurdjieff. Instead, the CCC asks us to contemplate a mystery, the “central mystery.” That seems to me to mean something else entirely.