Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Trinity revisited over coffee --to whom, by whom, in whom do you pray?

That is coffee they are sharing... right? OMG --what's that in the big ol' coffee cup?

Joel and I were having a theological discussion over coffee... all about the Trinity.... It is because I am re-writing the wake service we use, which uses the liturgy of evening prayer and then replaces the prayers with that of the vigil at the time of death... it is long, complicated, and because most folks at a wake (which number up to 100 or more) are from varied backgrounds, the liturgy is dull and convoluted....

But we weren't arguing --I mean having a theological discussion over coffee regarding the framework of the wake liturgy. We were arguing, I mean having a theological discussion regarding praying to Jesus. We don't disagree about that --we both think that if we are praying in the name of Jesus, as members of his Body, we can't pray to Jesus any more than Jesus prayed to himself. It totally disregards our baptism etc. etc. etc.

What we were arguing --I mean having a theological discussion over coffee about was whether we could/should pray to the Holy Spirit --I mean, on one hand, it makes perfect sense in the separation of the Persons of the Trinity (which is Joel's argument).... I said it was RIDICULOUS because we pray as the Son through the power of the Spirit to the Father.... and if it were all based upon the separation of the Persons of the Trinity, why couldn't the Father pray to the Son --or why couldn't the Father pray to the Spirit... it makes no sense. Not in my head, any way....

So, I have morphed the wake liturgy to the basic framework of    1. a gathering prayer    2. hearing/sharing the word    3. responding in prayer    4. blessings and dismissal  --and I wrote the prayers so we DON'T pray TO Jesus in any of it.

--and, while the local Tradition is to pray to Grandfather, I left the prayers to the Father --my religious imagination and longing is great enough to call that part of the Trinity anything from a pillar of fire, a burning bush, a mother hen --but I tried to write the prayers for this place, not me....

At prayer this morning (Galatians 3:1-14) --it's just too good a rant to break it up....
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified!

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing? – if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.”

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
So, does God pray --and if so, how and to whom or what?
And, when we pray --how and to whom or what?

The Trinitarian revelation sets my soul and imagination on fire --I am set free in prayer.... God is One; God is Three; God is not Spirit; God is Spirit; God is Flesh; God is not Flesh.... God and the Son... the Son and the Spirit....

--but, I am very clear that I am flesh and in baptism I have been hid with Christ in God... and, as kishnevi reveled in yesterday  --it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me....

--and I certainly don't pray to myself....

--although I am sure there are some who would say I do....

I believe that when a Christian prays, one prays to the Father (by whatever name) in the Son through the Spirit.

Oh dear --check this out:

That's really weird  --just sayin'. Is this what atheists are rejecting?? --well, I do too....


Small Farmer in The City said...

A thought from another tribal culture...

It is said that a rabbi was once in the marketplace and saw Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) sitting by the city gate and went to greet him.

During the conversation Elijah agreed to answer one question about the supernal heavens for the Rabbi. And the Rabbi asked, "What does God do with His day?"

Elijah smiled and said, "He prays!"

The Rabbi was shocked! "TO WHOM does God pray and for WHAT!?"

And Elijah said, "The Holy One Blessed Be He prays 'May my Compassion overcome my Justice!"

A nice story, eh?

kishnevi said...

The Talmud depicts God praying to Himself, "May My Attribute of Mercy be stronger than My Attribute of Strict Justice".

I once knew someone who used to pray to God, pure and simple, on the premise that The Three of Them could sort it out amongst themselves the question of who was the proper recipient.

But your formulation is the one I've seen in formal Eastern Orthodox writings on the Trinity, which usually emphasize what they call the Monarchy of the Father--the Will of the Father works through the Son in the Power of the Spirit.

And continuing from your comment on my comment yesterday--of course God doesn't exist. He is so utterly transcendent that not only do good and evil and truth and falsehood not apply to Him, but also even basic concepts of existence, is and is not, do not apply to God. Or, if God exists, then we do not.

And as to who created God--well, the Hebrew of the first verse of Genesis is syntactically odd. Read literally, it says that "Bereshit"--{"In the Beginning", which I've always related to the Alpha of "Alpha and Omega")--'bara Elohim"--"Created God"--et ha shamayim v'et ha-erets. "[by means of]the heavens and the earth"--the Utterly Transcendent One revealed Itself as God when it created the universe.

Ann said...

Very weird - I have never seen that one before. I think the Trinity is more like poetry or dance. What I have thought in years past is here.

it's margaret said...

Hi Small Farmer --and, yes, it's a wonderful story! Thanks!

Kishnevi --so, do you know Small Farmer!!! I love that you both gave the same quote --and a good one at that! --and, yes! yes!

Ann, thanks for the link. The image gives me a head ache!

JCF said...

That bottom image looks rather heretical to me, IMHO.

The top icon is tagged "Rub[i]levTrinity", but that's not by Rublev.


having a theological discussion over coffee about was whether we could/should pray to the Holy Spirit --I mean, on one hand, it makes perfect sense in the separation of the Persons of the Trinity (which is Joel's argument).... I said it was RIDICULOUS because we pray as the Son through the power of the Spirit to the Father

The "Trinity" was made for humankind, not humankind for the Trinity (so to speak). If someone wants to pray to the Holy Spirit---heck, if someone wants to pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!---they should go right ahead.

it's margaret said...

JCF --I didn't tag it -picked it up that way... but you are correct, it ain't Rublev.

Flying Spaghetti Monster --now there's a god for ya!!!!

Anonymous said...

Having been raised deliberately agnostic, my understanding of atheism is that atheists reject the idea of any sort of greater power. The theist "Watchmaker" theology is the closest to atheism, but science has made the Watchmaker irrelevant.

But then there is my cousin, both atheist and alcoholic, who had to come to terms with his alcoholism by finding a way to acknowledge that there's something outside of his ken, so his term for this power is the Great Cosmic Muffin. He's been dry for 35-odd years, so it must work for him.

Myself... that image makes my toes curl. Ewwwww. I still haven't decided what I believe about the trinity, but most of the time it doesn't matter. Being a Quaker allows me a lot of leeway, because the experience of the Divine is paramount, not the doctrines.

Your Friend Paula

it's margaret said...

Great Cosmic Muffin --I can see saying that at communion --the muffin of Christ --heheheh!

Joel said...

Ah Ann, indeed,as you wrote, "The concept of the Trinity was developed by the early church to clarify the boundaries of acceptable belief in Christianity."

I hear this at Nicaea:

How many Gods? One.
Is Jesus God? Yes.
Was the father he prayed to and taught us to pray to God? Yes.
Is the Spirit sent by the Father God? Yes.
But you said there was only One God. Yes.
How do you explain it? You don't, you know it from praying as Jesus taught and prayed, and as he lived knowing the Father and the Spirit, and believe him that there is only One God.

These are the boundaries of theological thinking. Let's call it, remember it by the name The Triad, which unfortunately will be translated into English as Trinity, which itself is ONLY a name, NOT a definition.

The same is true of the Creeds, they are NOT statements of faith (like those of the Reformists) but the Symbols and boundaries of The Faith of the Universal Church. And any Christian can and may play within these boundaries, hence, the Creeds were from the beginning, even at Nicaea, sung, and only later recited and hence heard as statements of faith and definition.

At least that's the way I learned it from my Christology professor Robert F. Capon back in the old, old, ruddy-duddy stupid old men days.

P.s., in the LXX remember, God "poeticised" creation (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν ), so I would think it is all poetry and art!!! Why not dance the way the early church did?

kishnevi said...

That icon is probably based on the famous Rublev icon, or derived from the same tradition, hence the confusion, I assume.

The bottom one though only reminds me of Hindu depictions of their multi faced gods, especially the threesome of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. And Hegel had his holy Trinity too, called it thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Sounds like the idea of triads, divine or not, pops up in a lot of places.

Now off to meet Small Farmer. I see he had hip surgery too. Mine came after a fracture of the pelvis. A month in the hospital taught me that however bad it seems, it could be much worse than it is.