Thought for the week - Trinity Sunday
Excuse me, but I am going to use a personal reflection again today. Sorry!
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, indeed I lived with them for a time. One of the great joys was to go into the cupboard of the sideboard. In there were all kinds of treasures for a six- or seven-year-old. There were games – dominoes, cards, board games. But best of all there were books. Not the usual kind of books but illustrated books. One of my favourites was the ‘Universal Home Doctor.’ I suppose it dated from the time before the NHS, supposedly helping to ‘diagnose’ common ailments. There were gory pictures of goitres, bunions, and other such things – I loved it! But it was not my favourite. That was a wonderful picture book of famous art. It had many illustrations, all black and white, but nevertheless, beautiful. The artwork illustrated was from ‘every age’ from cave paintings to the works of Picasso. As well as paintings there were sculptures too, again, illustrated in small black and white images. My absolute favourite was an image of Michelangelo’s Pieta, his carving of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the dead Christ, brought down from the Cross and laid in her arms. I think that as a seven-year-old there was the same kind of fascination as the medical book – but there was more. There was the look on Mary’s face, so realistic, so full of emotion, her face so contrasted with the expressionless dead Jesus. That image captivated me – and it still does. There was a written description too, details of colour, line size etc., which I tried to understand.
Imagine a scene twenty years later. There I was, for the very first time, visiting Rome, going into St Peter’s Basilica. As I wandered around, I chanced upon the real thing, the real carving of Michelangelo’s Pieta. I do not think I had even remembered it was there, and it had certainly been a very long time since I had looked at that grainy grey image in the book from my grandmother’s sideboard. Here was the real thing; full sized, coloured, three dimensional. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. This was not just the stunning reality of the sculpture, but I was transported back to my grandmother’s home, sitting on the floor, gazing at that image.
I think that somewhere in that very personal reflection is something that is for me – and I pray for you, a kind of antidote to all the complex sermons, books and shamrock leaves trying to describe the Holy Trinity. Theologians and preachers alike have tried and tried to describe, to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. All have their place, and all can tell us something of that great mystery. They can and do prepare us for the reality, but in a strange way they hide it too. All of that is rather like those grainy grey images and written descriptions. Now and only now, I could see the 3D shape and see the texture and the tension in the arms of Mary compared to the lifelessness of Jesus. The text and the pictures had prepared me, opened my eyes and emotions to some of the reality, but that was nothing compared to seeing and standing the presence of the reality.
In God’s good time, and with his love and grace we shall stand before his presence. We shall see the Holy Trinity in reality rather than ‘Through a glass darkly’ as St Paul puts it. Paul goes on to help us further in his famous passage from 1Corinthians 13. (v12)
“For now, we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”