Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
John 16: 12-15.
“I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now” (John 16:12).
Very vividly – and still with a sense of horror – I remember the first dogma lecture I ever attended. It started with Karl Rahner’s axiom: The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa. I could not make head or tail of it. Sheepishly, I cast an eye at my neighbour’s notes just in case I might have misheard what was said, at the same time praying that the library might stock a book: “The Dummies’ Guide to Dogma”.
Trinity Sunday is probably one of the most challenging feasts of the liturgical year for any preacher. Jesus’s words, that there are things that “would be too much for you now”, surely apply – and with a sigh. I would have loved to see the disciples’ faces had they been given a copy of Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the fruit of a long process of reflection, trying to express the inexpressible. It took centuries of questions and debates and produced saints and heretics in the making. Every new idea, every new poem and song, every scientific discovery, every political and cultural change raised more questions and inspired fresh answers – with no end in sight. This is true for the core doctrinal tracts as it is for spirituality or issues of morality and justice. Inquisitiveness increased our knowledge, prudence and wisdom applied faith to life, while prayer and contemplation brought us deeper into the mystery of God and our own. Had we not accepted the challenges of change through the ages, our faith would have quickly become of pious irrelevance. How are we facing up to the “many things” of today? – inspiring, disturbing and even provocative: interreligious dialogue, ecological awareness and urgency, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, migration, secularism, endemic abuse – and so much and overwhelmingly more. No wonder the disciples were not ready for all this!
Jesus did not give his followers a masterplan nor did he prepare them for any eventuality. He gave them something far more powerful: his promise that the God of relationship would literally stay “in touch”: touching their minds and hearts, inspiring and guiding them through times of trouble and bliss. Let us remember that we, like the disciples, are given this promise. It is encouragement and warning at the same time: The quality of our answers to the questions of today will depend on our openness to the Spirit. Karl Rahner famously said that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all”. Sounds easier than the initial quotation about the economic and imminent Trinity? It is not.
Sr. Sabine Schratz OP