The very Palpable Trinity
The very Palpable Trinity
Don’t you think that we often look at the Trinity as an abstract distant “object”? Strangely, in the early Church, the Trinity was a reality Christians were immersed IN all the time. The Trinity was very palpable, lived, tasted: an experience. How did this happen?
“Immersed”, according to the dictionary, is “to be covered completely in a liquid”.
The liquid can cover you, but it can sometimes penetrate your skin as well, like oil, no?
Once it penetrates your being, e.g. chemicals, you might be transformed into something like it, no?
Baptism was performed (and is still done in various Churches) by a triple immersion: one had to be immersed a first time: “in the name of the Father”, a second time “in the Son”, and a third time “in the Holy Spirit”, one God. The Greek meaning of the word “baptised” actually means “being immersed” and further endorses this method.
Baptism, then, is not about being immersed and then emerging from the water once and for all. It is meant to be a constant spiritual state of immersion, in which one remains baptised (immersed) all one’s life.
St. Paul greets his fellow Christians in Corinth this way: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Co 13:13) He mentions Jesus first: because Jesus is the one sent by the Father to reveal the Trinity to us, to open out the Trinity for us; He is the entrance Gate to the Trinity. This is stressed when Matthew mentions the Father, followed by the Holy Spirit. This is a very genuine primitive order and is, indeed, kept by Matthew in his stunning presentation of the triple Immersion (Mt. 5 through to 7), namely, the teachings on the Son (Mt. 5), on the Father (Mt. 6), and on the Holy Spirit (Mt. 7), which, in addition and most significantly of all, are one teaching and not three.
To baptise somebody is to introduce the person INTO the life of the Trinity, to immerse him or her and to hand over to them the responsibility of remaining immersed. This depends on us. The teaching on how to remain immersed in each Person of the Trinity is presented by Matthew in his Gospel in the Sermon on the Mount right after the Beatitudes:
At the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel, as the quotation below will illustrate, Jesus emphasises this keynote of the sacrament of Baptism when He asks his Apostles to do as follows: to help new Christians remain immersed in each one of the Persons of the Trinity. In order to do so his teaching is all one and triune.
It is our responsibility to put into practice the teaching of each immersion, in order to REMAIN immersed. “Dwell in me” says Jesus in John 15, or in other words: “Dwell in the Trinity”, Dwell in the Son (by putting into practice Mt. 5) Dwell in the Father (by putting into practice Mt. 6) Dwell in the Holy Spirit by putting into practice Mt 7).
The end of Matthew’s Gospel and his three chapters 5 to 7, in this manner, become one of the very first forms of Spiritual Theology…: teaching people how to dwell in the Trinity, how to dwell in each of the Persons of the Trinity. This is Baptism as is summed up by Matthew at the end of his Gospel, with all its implications concerning the Trinity:
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising (immersing) them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (end of Mt, and is as well the summary of Mt 5-7)
It is of the utmost importance, then, not to forget that “baptising” and “teaching to observe” are in fact one thing, and that they mirror each other.
One last thing
A very early tradition, found in St Irenaeus (130-202), says that the Hands of the Father are the Son and the Holy Spirit. (St Irenaeus is the disciple of the disciple of St John the Evangelist.) Now, imagine the Father holding you, as a little baby with His Hands (the Son, and the Holy Spirit), immersing you, and always holding you.
This is one of the early spiritual ways of being for Christians. This is the earliest form of catechesis and is very practical. First comes the understanding that God has two Hands – the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and that He holds us with them. Our aim then should be never to escape from His Hands. Finally, as each hand has 5 fingers, in order to remain in the Hands of the Father, we need to put into practice the 5 + 5 commandments we find in the Sermon on the Mount. The Son’s 5 commandments are to be found in the second part of Mt. 5, and the 5 of the Holy Spirit in the five sections of Mt. 7. We need to learn once again how to count on the fingers of each hand: 1, 2, 3,…5, then again: 1, 2, 3…5. In this way, the Father can hold us, we are facing Him, and we can live the 7 sections of Mt. 6, dedicated to the Father and actually containing in it the “Our Father”. (Please check Mt 5-7 text, with these divisions here) Counting, remembering, putting into practice, will allow us to remain in the Hands of the Father, all the time, Face to face with Him.
So, when we say the Our Father, we say it in the position shown above. The Father is holding us – his little children – with His First Hand: the Son, and with His Second Hand: the Holy Spirit. We are Face to face.
Hope that helps not only your neurones but your “taste buds” as well. Let us taste the Trinity: get your swimming trunks (Mt. 5-7) and jump into the Triune Well.
Note: “Dogmata” for the Greek Philosophers was like advice, a great piece of wisdom to be put into practice, a short sentence, to reflect and ponder on, put into practice until it becomes part of us. The three dogmata (the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit) are indeed to be put into practice, by living Mt. 5, 6 and 7.