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Today is Trinity Sunday. Its placement in the calendar – at the conclusion of the liturgical commemorations of the life, passion and resurrection of Christ at Easter and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - is deliberate.
Is the purpose of this feast to remind believers of the doctrine that the Christian God is three-in-one, or to worship and celebrate the three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
The words of today’s Preface indicate that it is not a matter of either-or here but of both-and:
“We joyfully proclaim our faith in the mystery of your Godhead.
You have revealed your glory as the glory also of your Son and of
the Holy Spirit: three Persons equal in majesty, undivided in
splendour, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored in your
Today we reaffirm our belief in the mystery of the Holy Trinity and adore God who is three-in-one.
This is reiterated in the Prayer after Communion: “Lord God, we worship you, a Trinity of Persons, one eternal God.” The Opening Prayer indicates that we do this in word and action: “Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons, by proclaiming and living our faith in you.”
In liturgy, we reaffirm our belief in and worship of the Trinity in the concluding words of collect prayers:
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
and of Blessings:
May almighty God bless you,
the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit.
Although the term Trinity does not appear in scripture, the concept is there both explicitly and implicitly. For example, the discourses after the Last Supper in the Gospel of John emphasise the mutual relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The second reading for today from Romans 8 spells out Paul’s understanding of the working of Father, Son and Spirit in the life of the Christian:
"When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."
The baptism formula, which we hear in today’s gospel from Matthew, indicates clearly the unity of the Trinity. Readers will remember the Vatican statement early last year that baptisms may not be conducted using alternative terms such as "Creator", "Redeemer" and "Sanctifier" and that the traditional form of "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" must be respected.
Whatever the theological, ecumenical and other issues involved, the terms creator, redeemer and sanctifier are role descriptors and not the names of the persons of the Trinity into whom we are incorporated at baptism.
"God, we praise you: Father all-powerful,
Christ Lord and Saviour, Spirit of love.
You reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and your love.
One God, three Persons, be near to the people formed in your image, close to the world your love brings to life.
We ask this, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
one God, true and living, for ever and ever."
(Alternative Opening Prayer, Trinity Sunday)