#ThinkGreater is the podcast for June 7, 2020. Thinking about God? Well, you may want to think greater than you can think. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew28 #TrinitySunday #Trinity #Father #Son #HolySpirit #OneEssence #ThreePersons #Anselm #3Fifths
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/7/2020 Trinity Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 28:16-20.
“God is greater than that which can be thought,” said St. Ambrose, when making the case for the existence of God. It is called the “ontological argument.” Ontology is the study of existence. St. Ambrose was the one who came up with the argument that because we exist, there must have been a being that existed prior to all things and before whom there is nothing. That being is God. As I said before, God gets to define himself. He has defined himself.
God has defined himself in a way that is beyond physics or human logic. We usually cannot understand that something can be more than one thing without losing its oneness. God has defined himself as one essence and three persons. How did we come to understand this?
The Church used to make big decisions on Dogma and Doctrine at what are called “Ecumenical Councils.” At these councils, the bishops from the Western and Eastern Churches would come together and discern the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. They did this because that is what happened at the First Ecumenical Council in Acts 15. It also makes sense that in order to explain what has been revealed to us by God about God’s-self, we should really take the discernment of more than one person. We say that there are Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Each one discerned things like Jesus is the Son and is fully God and fully human (Council of Nicaea, 325).
So, at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the question of who exactly is the Holy Spirit was being hotly debated. St. Basil the Great had written a treatise called, rather imaginatively, On the Holy Spirit. In it, St. Basil argues that the Holy Spirit is not another spirit that God sends out like one of the Archangels. Six years before the First Council of Constantinople, St. Basil writes that we know that the Holy Spirit is God because Jesus tells us so. That is when he quotes this famous passage from Matthew 28:19 where Jesus says, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
His argument is that the Holy Spirit is fully God because we know that the Father is God, because Jesus tells us to call God ‘Father.’ We know that Jesus is fully God and fully human because of the understanding of the Council of Nicaea in 325. We know that the Holy Spirit is God, says St. Basil, because we are told to baptize in God’s name. We are told to Baptize in the name of the Father, who is God; in the name of the Son, who is God; and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Holy Spirit is God because Jesus would not baptize in the name of someone who is not God. Baptizing “in the name of” appropriates all the properties and blessings of that being.
How does this idea that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one coincide with the idea of Deuteronomy 6:6, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one”? It is hard for us to understand how this can be because we are one small being, on a small planet, in a large solar system, in a larger galaxy, in a ginormous universe among universes. Our perspective can only hold onto the idea that God is one. Sometimes, we want to understand the Trinity by saying that the Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Sustainer, but unless they are all God, one God, one at the same time, then none of those things get done. In fact, none of those things can happen if the three persons of the Trinity are at odds with one another. Imagine if the order of creation was against redemption and that the method of sustaining creation and life was at odds with the other two. It would not be the orderly way in which these things happened. It would be chaos. Chaos works against the idea of being one.
For creation to not reject redemption and not fight against the sustaining of life there needs to be a oneness in the essence of the three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That one-ness is the substance and essence of divinity. Without divinity, the particularity of creation would not be possible. God spoke and the universe was made as we saw in the first reading from Genesis for today. He created through the Word who is the Son who was joined with the flesh of the Virgin Mother to be Jesus. That created order was sullied by humanity, but it would not be possible for it to be redeemed unless the Redeemer had perfect knowledge of the plan of the created order in the first place. His redemption had to know what the ordering was supposed to be in the first place.
The plan of creation itself needed to be sustained. One can create, but what is a creation without sustenance. Archdeacon and I were discussing the trimming of the landscaping around the church that needs to be done. It is not enough to plant the planned landscaping, there needs to be sustenance. It is important to plan the sustaining of our own plans of creation, like landscaping, before we do it. There needs to be a common mind and a common action. So, where would the person of the Father in heaven be in his creating if the person of the Holy Spirit was not of the same mind and then sustained what was created, and continually created. So, although the persons of the Trinity give us particularities, He is of one mind, one substance, one essence, mighty God, One Lord. The Lord is one house and he is not divided. It is impossible.
The way that this IS possible is that God is greater than that which can be thought. He is greater than the universe and cannot be measured, defined, or discussed with the constraints of the universe he created. This means the Lord God, the Holy Trinity, is outside of the bounds of physics. Those rules we understand about the universe, and matter, and etc. do not apply to one who is outside of the universe while able to be in the universe at the same time. So, when we think about God, we have to realize that he is always greater than that which can be thought by his own creation.
Do we realize that we are the created and not the Creator?
In my thoughts about George Floyd and the developments about staying at home during COVID-19, we often act like we are not the created. We have decided that skin color created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sustained by the Holy Spirit should be considered 3/5 of a person in the Constitution of people who declared their independence with the words, “All men are created equal…” That always confused me. We systematized in our Constitution that humans are 3/5 human by virtue of whose authority? Certainly not, God. Jesus is God and he said in this passage that “All authority in heaven and earth are mine. Go therefore and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Who are humans to decide otherwise?
When there is a disease, a pandemic, we should pray to God and humbly do whatever is necessary to protect his created people. We are going to implement our Gathering Again Plan beginning June 21 with the idea that we must meet in our churches with the other person’s health in mind. Why? Because we loving God by being tender and caring for his creation. We know that the Redeemer and Sustainer have redeemed all and are sustaining all so that praise can be lifted to the Father in heaven. Who are we to say, “No, I will not assist you in redeeming all and sustaining all so that all may praise you, Lord”? Just the opposite should be the case.
When we accept our rightful place in the created order, on other words, lower than God, that is when all things become possible because we stop trying to power our way to the top. We become humble. We become loving. We become sincere. One of the most important things for us to remember is that “God is greater than we can think”. Therefore, he is Trinity, one essence in three persons. He is able to create an order that we are only just discovering. He is outside of that order and able to create, recreate, redeem, and sustain all things over and over again.
So, it is not only possible, but it is necessary, that God be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; One essence in Three Persons. May God bless the preaching of the Gospel in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2020.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian