“Behold, a door was opened in heaven”
It was behind closed doors, literally and figuratively, that Jesus made known to us his resurrection. But it is not only behind closed doors that the things of God are made known to us. Through the incarnation and manifestation of Jesus Christ, through his passion and death, through his resurrection and ascension, through the sending of the Holy Spirit, “a door was opened in heaven” and we behold the glory of God in the fullness of his revelation. God makes himself known to us.
Trinity Sunday sets before us the vision of God which is the end of man. “The end of man is endless Godhead endlessly possessed” (Austin Farrer). Trinity Sunday, we might say, is the great Te Deum Laudamus of the Church. We proclaim God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. We proclaim what we have been given to behold through the fullness of the scriptural witness to God’s revelation. It is what we have been given to proclaim. It is also what we are privileged to participate in. And nowhere is that more fully captured than in the Athanasian Creed which we have been privileged to proclaim.
One of the three great catholic creeds of the Christian faith, the Athanasian Creed is, to be sure, the most challenging. Above all else, it offers us a way to think God. “Let us thus think of the Trinity,” meaning think of God in this way. What is this way? The way of negation and the way of affirmation; acknowledging the difference and the distance between God and man and the analogical ways in which there is a connection between God and man which does not make God dependent upon us. It is the very opposite.
We meet together in the glory of the revealed God, the glory of the Trinity. All our beginnings and all our endings have their place of meeting in the Trinity. It is, we may say, the one thing essential. No Trinity, no Christianity. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor.12.3). To say “Jesus is Lord” is to make a Trinitarian statement. It is the burden of the Church’s proclamation.
Trinity Sunday signals an ending and marks a beginning. There is an ending of all that we have gone through from Advent to this day, an ending that is a kind of gathering, a threefold gathering:
1. a gathering of all the history of salvation into this fullness of revelation;
2. a gathering of all religion into this fullness of meaning.
3. a gathering of all the substantial moments in the life of Christ into this fullness of understanding;
There is a beginning as well. There is our entry by grace, year by year, into the fullness of revelation, the fullness of meaning and the fullness of understanding which has been opened to view. “Behold a door was opened in heaven” (Rev.4.1). We are given to behold and enter into what we behold. What we behold are the highest things of the Spirit; in short, the spiritual reality of the living God. But it is what we are given to participate in.
To behold the highest things of heaven is to make a new beginning: “ye must be born again,” born anew, born from above. There must be in us a renewal of our understanding of what it means to be born again. We enter by grace into what Jesus wants us to know so that the divine life opened to view might take shape in us for our good and to his glory.
It means a new perspective, a deeper understanding and a beholding of things from above. There is a constant need for the resurrection of our understanding in the things which Jesus wants us to know. There are essentially two things which Jesus wants us to know. They are the things into which everything he says and does are gathered and find their place.
He has come to us with a twofold purpose: to reveal and to redeem; to reveal God to us and to redeem us to God. What he wants us essentially to know is his divine identity and his identity with us. There is in fact an exegesis of God – a making known of God. Jesus himself is the exegesis, the interpretive exposition. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
The point is made most directly in the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel. “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1.18). It is the only place in the Scriptures where exegesis – a making known – is used, not about a text or about an event, but about God himself. Jesus is the exegete of God. He makes God known to us even as he is the mediator between God and Man who brings us into fellowship with God. That fellowship is the fellowship of the Trinity – the fellowship of God with God in God. “Behold, a door was opened in heaven.” We behold what we enjoy – the fellowship of the Trinity.
And in the holy Eucharist, we participate in what we proclaim. We participate in the Son’s thanksgiving to the Father in the Holy Spirit. We are made “partakers of the divine nature” and do not lose our humanity but find its truth, redeemed and sanctified. We participate in what we behold.
You see, not only has “a door been opened in heaven” but we have been invited into the fellowship of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have fellowship with him whom we behold.
Perhaps what it signifies for us in our lives is best captured in George Herbert’s little poem about these great and big things, called, appropriately enough, “Trinity Sunday.”
Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy blood,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;
Purge all my sins done heretofore:
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.
Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity;
That I may run, rise, rest with thee.
What we proclaim with clarity is what we are given to participate in with charity. And such is the grace of God.
“Behold, a door was opened in heaven”
Fr. David Curry
Trinity Sunday, 2010