The Most Holy Trinity
Power, Wisdom and Love
The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
Iwas in the presbytery in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on a Thursday in February in 1970 when a large group of demonstrators occupied the cathedral across the street. They were part of a newly emerging Black Power movement. Their leaders denounced the government and demanded that the prime minister resign. They denounced the Church for its close association with colonial oppressors down through the ages. Next day the demonstrators were on the city streets and in the days that followed huge crowds gathered in a park in the city centre to be addressed by the leaders of the movement.
In the two months that followed there were demonstrations and public meetings; thousands of unemployed young people from deprived areas joined in. There were daily and nightly incidents of violence and arson. In a confrontation with a policeman, a demonstrator was killed. A huge crowd joined in a funeral procession through the city and on to the route to the cemetery. The powerful oil workers trade union joined the movement and planned a major march into the city. On April 21st two young army officers attempted to launch a military coup. The government declared a state of emergency and imposed a night curfew. It was a time of great danger for the country. The BBC World Service reported that the government might fall any moment.
On the radio
Not being brave by temperament or by strength of character, I was frightened. On the following day I went the radio station in the city centre as I did each Wednesday, to record the morning devotions for the following day. Every morning at 5.30 this station broadcast a fifteen minute religious programme (in this tropical climate the people get up early and go about their business before the heat of the day). I wondered what I should say. The issues of social justice and equality which had been raised by the Black Power movement had been addressed by the fearless archbishop, Anthony Pantin and by some lay people and priests.
Island of the Trinity
I remembered a quotation which the country’s telephone directory carried on its cover that year. The words were spoken by Christopher Columbus who made his third and very difficult crossing of the Atlantic in 1498. He had promised that he would dedicate the first land he reached to the Holy Trinity. At dawn on 31st July, he saw three hills on an island in front of him, and immediately named it the Island of the Trinity. At the beginning of the radio programme I said that Trinidad was the only country in the world named after the Blessed Trinity, and I recalled the story of Columbus which was well known to the listeners from their earliest days in school.
The Mystery of the Trinity
Then I told them what an English Dominican, Bede Jarrett wrote about the Blessed Trinity. When we think of God the Father we think of the power of God; we speak of him as the ‘Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible.’
We think of God the Son as the wisdom of God. The Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament speaks of wisdom as a person, who was there with God before creation began, and who joined him in the work of creation, ‘when he laid down the foundations of the earth, I was by his side, a master craftsman, delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence, at play everywhere in his world, delighting to be with the human race.’ (Prov 8:30-31).
The New Testament teaches us that God is love and that love is his first gift, containing all other gifts, and that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We associate the Holy Spirit with love.
Power allows, Wisdom designs, Love attunes
I was confident that what Bede Jarrett went on to say would reassure the radio listeners that morning. ‘By our belief in the Holy Trinity we acknowledge in one single God, Power, Wisdom, Love, and these three are one. Now surely I do see what an immense effect such a doctrine must have upon life. Whatever is allowed by God's power must be guided by His wisdom and urged on by His love. All that happens to me in life, the little worries and the great anxieties, the crises and the daily annoyances, the sorrows and joys, the harms that reach me through the sins of others, the great crimes of history, the huge and devastating wars, the partings and loves and whole cycle of human experience, are permitted by power, which is itself wise and loving.
These Three Persons determine my life, and, since I walk by faith, I must surely grow very patient in my attitude to life. For how can I complain or criticize God's providence, since it all comes under that triple influence of Power, Wisdom, Love. Under the guidance, then, of this mystery I can walk through the valley of death or the more perilous borders of sin without loss of courage or hopefulness.
Nothing can make me afraid. How these are separate, yet one, I do not know, nor can I reconcile in my concrete experience the claims of each. It is always a mystery, but a mystery in which I believe. Whatever Power allows on earth is designed in Wisdom and attuned by Love.’
The story of this revolution had a relatively peaceful ending. After a few days of negotiation, the rebel soldiers surrendered. By the grace of God and through the inherent goodness of the people, whole scale loss of life was avoided.
God, we praise you:
Father all-powerful, Christ Lord and Saviour, Spirit of love.
You reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and your love.
One God, three Persons,
be near to the people formed in your image,
be close to the world your love brings to life.