Homily for June 15, 2003

Father Tom’s Homily

Trinity Sunday

June 15, 2003

As you approach the old city of Jerusalem, the most prominent
structure you see, bright and gleaming above the rest, is the golden
dome of Haram Esh-Sharif.
This is the great shrine of the Muslims also called the Noble
Sanctuary or the Dome of the Rock.

It was built in 691 by the Caliph Abd el-Malik. He used
architecture to express the superiority of Islam over Judaism and
Christianity. This great Islamic Temple was built over the ruins of
the Jewish Temple which had been destroyed in 70 by the Roman army.
The dome of this Islamic Temple was purposely built larger than
the dome of the nearby Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre built by
the emperor Constantine in 335. The larger dome of the Muslim Sanctuary,
built on higher ground, looks down on the Christian Sanctuary.

Inside the Noble Sanctuary is a message for Christian visitors.
It is an inscription which reads:
“O you people of the Book (a term for Christians and Jews who
read the
book, the Scriptures – but in this case the term obviously
for Christians), overstep not bounds in your religion, and of God
speak only the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, is only an apostle
of God.
Believe in God and say not Three. God is only one God. Far be it
that he should have a son.”

The author of this inscription could easlily see that the Trinity is
at the heart of our Christian faith. In accord with Jesus’ instructions
(today’s gospel), we baptize in the name of the Three Persons in God.
We invoke the Three Persons as we begin our prayers, with the sign of
the cross.
The Three Divine Persons were first revealed at Jesus’ baptism.
The Father’s voice from the cloud proclaimed Jesus as the beloved Son,
while the Spirit Dove hovered over Jesus.

What does this mystery of the Trinity mean for us? It seems to
be a truth far beyond our own understanding and experience.
The Trinity is a truth that teaches us how we are to live now and
how we hope to live in the future.
God, the center of all truth, is not a majestic being that lives
in isolation. Rather, God is a community of Three Persons who live in
a deep loving relationship with each other.

God has placed deep within each of us the longing to be loved,
to be in communion with one another: to be in community.
This longing also directs us toward that great Community, the
Blessed Trinity, in whose company our longing for communion with others
will be finally satisfied.

Ancient theologians in the eastern Church used a Greek word to
describe the inner life of the Trinity. The word is “epichoresis,”
which means a dance. (we use the word “choreography” to speak
of dance)
This suggests that we ought to imagine a dance when we consider
the Three Person in God.

I recall the parish festivals when I was a child back at St. Mary
in Canton. The festivals usually included dancing, square dancing.
The best dancers were the Croatians of the parish. They danced with
great energy and exuberance. It was a joy to watch.
Perhaps you have images of dancing. Watching happy dancers or
being part of the dance.

This is a good beginning in our approach to the mystery of the
“epichoresis” of the Trinity. We no longer picture the Three Divine
Persons solemnly seated on golden thrones, but in a dance of love and joy.

It is from this exuberant celebration of their love that creation
spins forth. The far-flung stars, the majestic oceans and mountains,
the rich and beautiful diversity of life that surrounds us – these
are spinning off from the abundant outpouring of the love between the
Three Divine Persons.
We imagine this interplay of their love as a dance. This allows
us to see the image of the dance in the celebration of life around us
and within us.

We are not far removed from God, we are images of the Three
Persons’ delight in each other. They take great delight also in us.
As we have spun out from their shared exchange of love (the dance),
we are also invited to return to the center, to their dance.
The longing in our hearts for communion with others finds its
highest expression in our yearning for the divine embrace in their dance.

As we imagine the dance of the Trinity we keep the beat with the
tapping of our foot and we smile at the exuberance of their dancing.
But we are not to be content to be bystanders of their dance. The Three
Divine Lovers reassure us that we can fit in as they invite us into
their dance.
This is the reason for celebrating the Feast of the Trinity.
We are reminded that we are called into their “epichoresis,” their
dance of love.

It is not for us to just sit quietly puzzling over the mystery
of the Three Persons in God. We are to get up and join their circle of
joyful dancing.