When I was pregnant with my son, I rediscovered my love of swimming. As a child, I found the endless laps kind of lonely but these days, I cherish those quiet stretches in the deep, counting breaths and tending to the smallest details of movement. It’s been a few years now, my son is a toddler, and I am beginning to discover my rhythm. A few weeks back, I had an amazing swim. I felt buoyant and powerful as my body moved with ease, riding an invisible current, a cadence, an underwater pulse that just made sense. In some ways, it felt like no workout at all, because it all came so effortlessly. A harmonious meeting of streams of motion—my muscles and the water—they spoke a language I did not understand but the meaning was something I knew intimately. Even now, the enchantment remains.
In my meditations on the Trinity, I found myself returning to this day in the pool . It was an ineffable experience of connectedness. I felt deep wells of gratitude for my sisters and for everyone who taught me how to swim but it was also an embodied conversation with no words. It was at once beyond my comprehension and curiously, even hauntingly, recognizable. As the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, today is an opportunity to wrestle with this defining doctrine of our church and to sit in the tension of knowing and unknowing. Before we do this, however, we must acknowledge how this element of our tradition has been used as a gatekeeper. In the middle ages (and thereafter), Jews and Muslims were tormented by Christians who wielded the Trinity as a weapon of war. Crusaders demanded ‘fidelity’ by belief in the Trinity—forced conversion or death. It is so painful to see how a doctrine of self-giving love and radical inter-dependence has been used to dehumanize. Even between Christians it has served as an impossible litmus test, sowing seeds of disconnection and self-doubt—but do you really understand the Trinity? And who could possible say yes?
Here’s the thing. It’s a mystery. The triune God—one in three. Difference is what defines the Trinity. Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—God the Creator, God the Incarnate, and the Holy Spirit. It’s central to our faith as Christians and as Catholics, and still it eludes us. Early Jesus followers expressed exhilaration and wonder around God’s ever-presence. This was before trinitarian theology was mapped out and argued over. It was a bunch of human beings experiencing God in and between one another and it was transformative, terrifying, and mysterious.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus assures his friends, “I have much to tell you but you cannot bear it now.” These are words of profound comfort. And for the disciples who a few verses earlier took heed of Jesus’ cryptic warnings, I imagine they were even more comforting! These words of Jesus acknowledge the humanity of the disciples—our humanity—their brokenness—our brokenness—the limitations of their minds and spirits—the limitations of our minds and spirits. These words of Jesus convey to me the tenderness and compassion of a mother taking her child’s face into her hands. God holds us in these words, saying, “I see you. I delight in sharing myself with you. You are holy and the Spirit will nourish you as you go.”
In higher education, a place where ‘knowing’ is taken for granted as the universal default and preferred setting, this message from Jesus offers a twist. No amount of studying can prepare you for this journey. It’s kind of out of your hands. Jesus has already decided, “you cannot bear it now.” Patience and surrendering are their own spiritual disciplines, but I see this as also a means to disentangle self-worth from productivity. You are worthy and whole just as you are in this moment—not after you figure it all out, obtain the internship or pass the entrance exam, or lose 15 lbs.—nope you are worthy and whole just as you are. The rest, all that is to come, it will unfold in time and in trust in the spirit.
Many of us lead hyper-scheduled lives but the spirit – she’s spontaneous and playful. She nudges us so we may glorify God’s beautiful and diverse creation. In our first reading from Proverbs, Lady Wisdom (the Spirit) is dancing in the heavens, cheering on God. Her voice and her body inspire and cajole divine delight. God loves it. I’d say Lady Wisdom is God’s pump up song but it’s way more reciprocal than that. They are in cahoots, co-conspirators, bringing one another into greater fullness, by being in relationship. Joyous, creative, inter-dependent, time-insensitive relationship.
Spiritual work is hard work. It often means slogging through infuriatingly windy paths, with unexpected highs and lows—and blahs. Though it may feel like false starts and dead ends—it is just part of the journey. That is spiritual life. In his book The Divine Dance, Richard Rohr adds texture to the relationship between journey and mystery. He says, that it is not that the mystery is something we cannot understand, it’s that we are forever understanding it. My friends, this Trinity Sunday, I invite you to dwell in this reframing of mystery – the forever understanding –and marinate in one or two of these provocations:
How might unity in multiplicity inspire us to be in solidarity with people of other faiths or no faith?
In the spirit of the liturgical year, which calls us to re-encounter our tradition and story in cycles, how have joy and sorrow from your past year redefined your relationship to the Trinity?
How might we use the Trinity as a way to deepen our work for justice, honoring difference and diversity as holy?
And lastly, how might we make space to listen to and carouse with the Spirit, allowing everyday sacramental moments to break open our faith so we may remember, once again—in body and spirit—that God is a verb?
Lynn Cooper has served as the Catholic Chaplain at Tufts University since 2008. She holds a B.A. from Tufts in Comparative Religion and English, an M.Div from Harvard Divinity School and is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry at Boston University. In her eleven years of college ministry, Lynn has seen how disconnection, posturing, and numbing deplete students, distancing them from God, themselves, and one another. She hopes to disrupt the current script by inviting students to explore friendship as sacrament.
Lynn met her spouse Andrew in the storytelling scene of Boston. In this community, she fell in love with the transformation of public space into honest-to-goodness sanctuary. Watching audiences hold stories as the sacred, living things that they are has helped her to rethink how we do church. She and Andrew (a UU minister and chaplain) live in Providence, RI with their two year old son. If becoming a mom has taught her anything it's that spiritual life can thrive in the mucky, messy and mundane.
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