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Prince Charles will succeed his mother. Christ will not succeed his Father.

A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15

He will become king before we even know that she has passed. Presumably Charles, the prince of Wales, will be at the bedside of his dying mother, Queen Elizabeth. When he rises from it, his siblings will kiss his hand in acknowledgement of his accession.

According to a plan, initially developed in the 1960s, called “Operation London Bridge,” the first public official to be informed of the queen’s death will be her private secretary, the Right Honorable Edward Young CVO. After that, using the code phrase “London Bridge is down,” the British Prime Minister will be informed, followed by the leaders of the fifteen countries where the queen is head of state, then the leaders of the thirty-six other nations in the commonwealth.

A queen will have passed, and a king ascended long before the waiting world learns of the event. As the media is finally informed, a footman will follow a much older custom, crossing the pink gravel in front of Buckingham Palace to pin a black-framed death notice on its gates.

Most Christians are surprised to learn that, although the New Testament speaks of a “Father,” a “Son” and a “Holy Spirit,” it never employs the word “Trinity.”

Most Christians are surprised to learn that, although the New Testament speaks of a “Father,” a “Son” and a “Holy Spirit,” it never employs the word “Trinity.” It would take several centuries of dispute over the nature and relationship of these three persons—and the oneness of God—before the Catholic Church declared, at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., that there is one God in three persons.

More church councils would be needed to clarify the matter, which is why no one with even a passing knowledge of Christian history would ever be so naïve as to reject elements of the Christian faith simply because they are not perceived to be patent in Scripture.

And even with the clarity of later church teaching, which was never rejected by the reformers of the 16th century, we still struggle to avoid a multitude of misleading notions about the Most Holy Trinity.

One such misconception comes from the ancient institution we call monarchy. There can be only one sovereign, so everyone else in a realm must fall somewhere below that person. Applying this misleading model to the Trinity, Jesus becomes a lesser, though more personal, substitute for God the Father. In this view, unlike Prince Charles, Christ never comes to the throne of his Father. He remains at a lower rank, though still our ever-dear Lord Jesus.

However, when she had to insist that there is only one will and one nature in God, the church employed monarchy as a useful Trinitarian example. The universe is neither summoned into existence by a committee, nor is it so governed.

There has always been a Father pouring himself out in love of the Son, and the two of them are ever breathing forth a love we call the Holy Spirit.

So it is quite pointless in our personal devotion to prefer one person of the Trinity over another. Everything about the Father, Son and Spirit is one and the same, everything save their eternal origins and the love they share. There has always been a Father pouring himself out in love of the Son, and the two of them are ever breathing forth a love we call the Holy Spirit.

Trinity Sunday is an example of the church creating a devotion where she has always had a doctrine, albeit in this case one only reached after strenuous struggle. Yet Trinitarian faith has always been well expressed in the liturgy. There, following the command of Christ, we address our prayers to the Father in the name of the Son and in the power of the Spirit.

William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, waited as long as they could to tell their son, Prince George, of his future role. It was more important for him to know that he was loved than that he would some day rule. When it was explained to him, young George still did not fully understand his future role—how could he?—though he clearly did not think that the world was centered upon himself. Instead, the seven-year-old prince asked if he would still be allowed to play soccer.

What does a devotion to the Most Holy Trinity add to our lives? Perhaps this. Like children, who naturally think that the world revolves around them, we cannot help but picture God as being out there in the world which surrounds us. Something that begins, if it does begin, beyond ourselves. God thus becomes a notion we ponder.

But of course, the picture is reversed. God is not the afterthought, the adjunct. We are. Although we need God, God lacks nothing without us. God is already absolute authority, all-embracing wisdom, and ever self-sufficient, self-renewing love. To know our place before God is to know ourselves. Indeed, it is the only way we can be ourselves, be the love God called into being.

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