IN St Davids Cathedral there is a beautiful chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket. He, you may recall, was the Archbishop of Canterbury murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and later made a saint. His shrine was one of the great pilgrimage sites in Europe and was where the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were heading. The Sunday after Pentecost was the day on which Thomas Becket was consecrated a bishop in 1162. Whilst he was archbishop, and before his untimely death, Becket desired that the anniversary of his consecration should be kept on the Sunday after Pentecost, in honour of the Most Holy Trinity. The practice became widespread and in 1334, Pope John XXII made it an official feast day for the Western Church. The Feast was popular, so popular in fact, that in England and Wales the remaining Sundays before Advent, about half the Church year, were numbered after Trinity, rather than after Pentecost.
The word Trinity was coined by Tertullian in the second century AD combines the words for three and unity, to represent the three persons of the one God. Christian worship is thoroughly Trinitarian, we worship One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are baptised in their names, and our Eucharist this morning begins with the words: ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Yn enw’r Tad, a’r Mab, a’r Ysbryd Glân’. The Creed which we are about to say has a tripartite structure, (it is divided into three sections) and expresses our belief in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are so used to saying these words that we rarely stop to notice what we are doing, and why. Our worship as Christians helps to understand what we believe, and who we are. Jesus has taught us to call God Father. He is the Son of God, and with the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we can now recognise the fullness of the Divine Life in a Trinity, distinct yet united.
As Christians we worship One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: they are not three separate Gods, but one God. That the three persons of the Trinity are one God is itself a mystery. The mystery of God’s very self: a Trinity of Persons, consubstantial, co-equal and co-eternal. We know God most fully in the person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. He was born of the Virgin Mary, died on the Cross for our sins, and was raised to New Life at Easter. He sent us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In Christ God discloses who and what He is. We know Jesus as someone who pours out love, who desires our reconciliation with God so much so that He dies on the Cross to bring it about.
The Gospel reading today begins with one of the most well-known verses in the Bible:
“Do, carodd Duw y byd gymaint nes iddo roi ei unig Fab, er mwyn i bob sy’n credu ynddo ef beidio â mynd i ddistyw ond cael bywyd tragwyddol” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)
God the Father sends the Son into the world, to be born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, out of love for humanity. God loves us. This is the central truth of our faith as Christians. The following verse underlines this:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:17)
Jesus, whose name means ‘God saves’, has come on a rescue mission. As we will soon proclaim in the Creed: ‘for us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, Er ein mwyn ni ac er ein hiachawdwriaeth disgynnodd o’r nefoedd…’. This is not a new idea. In the first reading today, God descends to Moses, pronounces His name, and then speaks to Moses:
‘The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”’ (Exod 34:6)
God is faithful and loving in His interactions with humanity. Throughout the Bible God forgives us, and rescues us when we go astray. There is a consistent message here, a golden thread which runs through all the Scriptures.
St Paul writes two letters to the Church in Corinth in order to sort out various problems, to promote reconciliation and harmony in the Body of Christ. Christians are expected to practice what we preach, and to live out our faith, making reconciliation real in our dealings with one another. Today’s second reading makes this explicit:
‘Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2Cor 13:11-13)
Grace, love, and communion, are all words which describe who God is, what God offers, and how humanity should live. In the Eucharist we seek God’s forgiveness, share God’s peace, pray for ourselves and the needs of the world. In the Eucharist God gives Himself to us, so that we may be built up in love and become what God is.
Here, this morning, earth and heaven meet, and we are united with the God who loves us, who reconciles us to Himself and each other. At the end of today’s Eucharist I will pray that God will bless us as I invoke the name of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while making the sign of the Cross. These words and gestures are not random, but are part of our tradition of worship as Christians. This is how we express and declare our faith; through words and actions. Words and actions help us to reinforce what we believe and help us to live out our faith.
The terms we use to worship God matter in that they express the faith which we believe. They form us into a community of belief where what we believe affects who we are and what we do. The gift of faith, the life of love, and the hope of eternal life are not things for us to jealously guard. Instead, they are for sharing. We are called to make disciples, to share what we have received, so that others may experience the love of God.
Like all relationships, this goes beyond words, and is something which needs to be experienced. It is only in our experience of this relationship that we can begin to come to understand our Faith. However, we will only do so fully when we experience this in heaven, where we will be united with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed all, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.