We sing the words week after week, year after year. We know them well, but do we consider what we are saying, do we think about these words, about their meaning and their importance for our lives? “I believe in one God…” These are tremendously powerful words that change everything for us – that shape our lives, that shape our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, words that shape how we will live and what we will do. Faith is the foundation of Christian life. We are called to have faith in God, faith in Christ, faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, faith in the good news of Scripture, faith in the kingdom of God and the life to come. The Epistle to the Hebrews defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Christian faith is not merely believing in the existence of something, the way (for example we believe in the existence of a bird or a flower – or that two plus two equals four). Christian faith means that we both believe in the reality of God, put our trust in God, rely on God, and live our lives based in this reality. Christian faith is active and is shown by the way we live.
The Christian faith that we believe is not something that we came up with on our own; no one sat down one day and decided to invent a convenient, sensible religion. Our faith, rather, is based on revelation, on God’s revelation of Himself. God has revealed that He is the source of all things, that He is the Creator, the source and giver of life. He has revealed that mankind, male and female, are created in God’s own image and likeness. We were created to be in relationship with God, and so the separation from God that our sinfulness, our disobedience, brought into the world, leaves a void in man’s life – a yearning, a hollow feeling, a desire that we are always trying to fill (often in harmful and inappropriate ways). But only one thing can fill that void; only one thing can satisfy our desire, our hunger: St. Augustine said that “our souls are restless until they find rest in God.” We only find peace when we find God and restore the relationship that we were created for. In this broken and sometimes ugly world, we may yearn for peace, joy, love, truth, beauty, goodness, wisdom, and holiness – but we will search in vain until we find God – who is the source of all peace, all joy, all love, all truth, all beauty, all goodness, all holiness and so much more. God is truly beyond all things, more than we can imagine, greater than our minds can comprehend. In the 4th century, St. Basil the Great, whose feast we celebrate this week, said that it “is easier to measure the entire sea with a tiny cup than to grasp God’s ineffable greatness with the human mind.”
And yet, this God, so past our understanding, despite our rebellion, did so love us that he became one of us. The God whom the whole world could not contain, contained himself in the womb of a virgin Mother, and God became man. And now our knowledge of God took new fulness as in Jesus Christ we saw both the fulness of God and the fulness of the way we are supposed to live: perfect God and perfect man. In the life of Christ, the mystery of God is revealed to us and we encounter God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although throughout the Old Testament we find glimpses of the life of the Holy Trinity (such as when God created all things by His Word and by His Spirit, and when Isaiah proclaimed in his vision that God is Holy, Holy, Holy), it was not until God dwelt among us, restoring the relationship that was lost, that the mystery began to make any sense. The Father sent the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary, with her cooperation, with her consent, and she gave birth to the Son of God. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father bore witness saying “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. At the Transfiguration, again the Father bore witness to the Son, as the Holy Spirit filled the mountain top with uncreated light. St. Irenaeus spoke of the Son and the Spirit as the “two hands of God” and every creative and sanctifying act of God is performed by these two hands working together in perfect harmony.
As we approach the great mystery of God, we encounter a community of love, and it is in this way that the understandably confusing doctrine of the Holy Trinity can make the most sense to us. We know that God is love, and there must be someone or something for any lover to love. There is perfect love, perfect communication, perfect unity of will between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We say that there is “One God” because there is one Father, who is the source of all things, even the source of all divinity, and the Son is God because He is the Son of God, and the Spirit is God because He is the Spirit of God. God is One, yet we speak of the Holy Trinity, for God is revealed as three distinct and absolutely unique persons. Not one God acting in three different ways or three Gods, but one God in three persons, a community of love that not only loves one another, but has called us into being, to love us and to share their blessed life with us forever.
We begin this blessed life in God’s kingdom, here and now, in our life in the Church, and we believe that the life we have chosen in this world will continue beyond death and into the next life as well. As we are made in the image and likeness of God, so our life in the kingdom is filled, guided, and fed by the life of the Holy Trinity. The Son has given His life to restore us to a right relationship with the Father and we can now live as children of God by the Holy Spirit working within us. We can live as Christ lived, by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. In fact this is the expectation for each one of us, to become like God by allowing the two ‘hands of God’, the Word and the Spirit, to cleanse us, to heal us, to refashion us, and lead us to grow to become what we were created to be.
In a moment, the bread and wine we offer will become the Body and Blood of Christ, as we ask the Father to send down the Holy Spirit to change ordinary food into the food of heaven so that God’s people may be fed for life in the kingdom. Now, by faith, we come to worship and adore, to sing thanks and praise, to be fed and strengthened, that we may truly live and proclaim the glory of God, the Holy and most blessed Trinity.