Sunday, my friend and I hiked to the top of Grouse Mountain. It is a steep 3 KM hike with an 853 meter elevation gain. At the top is a small village of shops and ski lifts and rope courses (and two grizzly bears in behind a wire fence!). It was Father’s Day and also Trinity Sunday in our liturgical calendar.
During our frequent rest stops we talked about the meaning of the Trinity. It is a notoriously tricky sermon to give for most priests. My friend, an Anglican priest, said that he talked about Perichoresis, a Greek word meaning essentially ‘rotation.’ It is used by the Patristic theologians to get at the three distinct persons of the Godhead who are one being or substance. Later, Islam would declare this doctrine a heresy for daring to include Jesus as part of God. Muslims insist on the radical unity of God. Even later, Mormons would declare this dogma needlessly complex and inaccessible. They emphasize the threeness of God, their unity is in mission and purpose (essentially Tri-theism).The Trinity is indeed a mysterious doctrine. But that is what draws me to it. God is drawing us beyond our understanding to a place of deep communion. It is also essentially ecological. It says, God is more of a relationship than a thing. The dynamic between lover, beloved and the love shared between them is a beautiful way to talk about God when we are trying to cultivate an awareness of God’s presence in our lives and in our hearts. Words like Father and Son point to what that relationship is like, but they do not exhaust an explanation of it.
As we hiked I stopped under a beautiful tree that had three intertwining branches. I am not sure what caused the tree to grow this way, but it had perhaps lost its leader to a storm and the higher branches competed to fill the role. It occurred to me that the Trinity is like a tree with three stems. They are distinct and unique and discrete and yet they are the same being.