Trinitarian Dance  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

It has been observed somewhere or other that it is impossible to preach about the Trinity for longer than fifteen minutes without falling into heresy. I have not timed Fr Matt Gunter's essay, which appears in full on Into the Expectation, but I am confident that heresy-hunters will be disappointed. Special greetings on this Trinity Sunday to all members of churches named after this puzzling yet vital dogma.


...before and beyond and within all creation God is a dance, God is a friendship dance. From all eternity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit dance the dance of love and truth and joy. God is a dynamic dance of mutual giving and receiving and delighting. As they sought language to point toward an understanding of God as Trinity, the early Christian theologians used the Greek word perichoresis, which means something like "they dance around together".

...The triune nature of God is one of the central mysteries of Christianity. But mystery is not the same as conundrum. Nor is it the result of a presumptuous desire to explain more than can be explained...[The Cappadocians of the 4th century] argued that all we can really know of God is what God has revealed in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What God is beyond that is unknowable. We do not use trinitarian language for God out of presumption. It is just that, as Rowan Williams has said, "It is the least worst language for God we have".

...The doctrine of the Trinity is also good news because it means there is room for otherness. If there is "space" within God for the Son to be other than the Father, and the Spirit to be other than the Father and the Son, then there is space for us to be other than God. God makes space for creation and for us in it. Understanding God as Trinity means understanding God as involved in, but not overwhelming, everything. There is room for real freedom. We can celebrate our unity and diversity, not as a contemporary cliche', but as a reflection of what it means to be created in the image of God. God is one, but one in whom there is intimate otherness.

Irenaeus on Pentecost  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor. His dates are uncertain but he somehow migrated to Gaul, where he eventually became the bishop of Lyons. He is known mainly for his work Against Heresies (ca 180), in which he defends a fairly mature orthodox faith against Gnosticism and other "alternative" explanations of Christianity. The excerpt below, dealing with the theological interpretation of Pentecost, describes the action of the Holy Spirit using a moisture metaphor instead of the more customary wind image.


This is why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

Julian and the Motherhood of God  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) lived for many years as an anchoress or solitary in a church in Norwich, England. At the age of 30 she had fallen very ill and had experienced a series of visions, which she later recorded in Revelations of Divine Love (numerous editions), the first book in Middle English by a woman. Today being Julian's feastday as well as the day before Mothers' Day, we honor both with passages from her book describing God's love in strikingly maternal terms that are perhaps even more relevant today. They may be found here on the website of the Anglican Order of Julian of Norwich.


57. Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and never shall come to birth out of Him.

58. ...The Second Person of the Trinity is our Mother in human nature in our essential creation. In Him we are grounded and rooted, and He is our Mother in mercy by taking on our fleshliness. And thus our Mother is to us various kinds of actions (in Whom our parts are kept unseparated) for in our Mother Christ, we benefit and grow, and in mercy He redeems and restores us, and, by the virtue of His Passion and His death and resurrection, He ones us to our essence. In this way, our Mother works in mercy to all His children who are submissive and obedient to Him.

59. As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother...I understood three ways of looking at motherhood in God: the first is the creating of our human nature; the second is His taking of our human nature (and ther commences the Motherhood of grace); the third is motherhood of action (and in that is a great reaching outward, by the same grace, of length and breadth and of height and depth without end) and all is one love.

60. The mother can give her child such from her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with Himself; and He does it most graciously and most tenderly with the Blessed Sacrament which is the Precious Food of true life. And with all the sweet Sacraments He supports us most mercifully and graciously.

Theosis in the Catholic Catechism  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Today being the third anniversary of this blog, I revisit the concept of theosis, which was the subject of our very first post. Theosis lies at the center of Eastern Christian theology and spirituality, but is by no means restricted to that tradition. In a very useful essay on the Jesuit site Ignatius Insight, Carl E Olson points out a number of places in which theosis is alluded to in Catechism of the Catholic Church (Doubleday 1994), the definitive statement of Roman Catholic dogmatic teaching.


460. The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature"(2Pet 1:4): "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God (Irenaeus)..."The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods" (Athanasius).

654. Justification...brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ's brethren...We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.

1996. Our justification come from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

2009. Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life" (Council of Trent). The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due...Our merits are God's gifts" (Augustine).