Pentecost and the Holy Trinity - A Reflection

It seems a long time since the 13th February - Ash Wednesday, when we began the season of Lent, remembering and commemorating the final weeks of Jesus’ life on earth. Although it is an annual remembering, there always seems a freshness and vitality in prayer as we reflect through the scriptures and liturgies on the sadness, the pain, the anguish, followed by unspeakable joy and elation. Perhaps this is because in a deep place within us we know we are not simply recalling historical events but are caught up in a living reality. We are part of an ongoing event, a spiritual journey in which the Pentecost happening was the beginning of the ‘Last Days,’ the final phase of God’s dealings with humankind; a final phase which will end with the Parousia – the union with God in Heaven, where all that puzzles us will be revealed.

Reflecting on the Resurrection, Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit sets me pondering anew on the great mystery of the Trinity. We believe in One God, Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit all one and the same God. Each Person seemingly, has different roles. This recalls for me the intriguing words of the opening of St John’s Gospel:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jn.1:1-5

It would appear that John is focusing here on Jesus the Word made Flesh who dwelt among us for thirty three years. He appears to attribute to him the act of creation which brought the universe into beginning. These words accord with Genesis I. where we read that God spoke. ‘God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.’ So creating the universe and making God visible and tangible by becoming truly human would appear to be the role of the second person of the Blessed Trinity
John also to some extent outlines the role of the Holy Spirit. He speaks of the Holy Spirit as the ‘Advocate’ who as it were will take over the work that Jesus has begun.
“ I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. Jn. 15:6 and13-14

The work of the Holy Spirit is immediately obvious on the day of Pentecost. The apostles were frightened, confused men after the Ascension of Jesus. His last words to them were that they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. It must have seemed a terrifying and impossible task. Yet when the Spirit came they were transformed. They became fearless, insightful preachers able to understand and quote the scriptures to prove Jesus was the awaited Messiah. They were scarcely recognisable as the timid, questioning disciples who accompanied Jesus. They had the gift of speaking and being understood in the language of every person present. As it was an important Jewish feast day there were people with many different native languages present, drawn by the sound of the violent wind. The Church, the Kingdom of God on earth, was truly born that day.
The Acts of the Apostles and the letters written by Paul and others gives a fascinating account of the Holy Spirit at work in the Apostles and the new converts, as the Church spread rapidly throughout the known world. These faced much opposition, violent persecution, torture and death but nothing deterred the growth of the Church. The symbols we use for the Holy Spirit are wind, fire, water and the dove. It is perhaps not as easy for us to relate to the Holy Spirit as to Jesus. He spoke our human language, walked and talked, slept and ate as we do and we are deeply grateful to the Evangelists who gave us such detailed accounts of his life, his teaching, his miracles and encounters with different men and women and of his death, Resurrection and Ascension.

We do not have such wealth of detail about the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Church is alive and active because of His presence in it and within us and there are times when we experience this presence in our personal lives. Against all the odds the Church grew and spread. We hold that all prayer, good thoughts, words, and actions throughout the world and across the centuries are inspired by His power.

So if the role of Jesus is creator and giving God a visible, tangible persona and the role of the Holy Spirit is the energy and power sustaining and developing the work of Jesus, through building up a body of believers which we call the Church, what is the role of the Father?

The title of the first Person of the Blessed Trinity “Father” is perhaps our best clue. My image of the Father is of the great host, the owner, the one who welcomes, the planner and organiser who works in total love and harmony with the Son and the Spirit in relating to His Universe. I think that my image comes from the words of Christ when the apostles pressed him for information about when the kingdom would be restored to Israel. His reply was: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” Jn. 16: 7. It is strengthened by the fact that Jesus as man, spent many hours communing with the Father and praying for his own and the needs of his disciples and all who would believe in him through their teaching. It is as though he was reporting back and receiving strength and guidance from the Father.

We have of course just our human language, imagination, concepts and thought processes to muse, speculate and ponder on the Nature of God, Father, Son and Spirit. As St Paul reminds us:

“no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1Corinthians 2:9..
The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is beyond anything we could conceive or imagine but it is good nonetheless to meditate and reflect on the glimpses and insights that the Scriptures, and other scholarly works afford us.
Camilla Hunt