Weekly Bible Reflection: Trinity Sunday, B

Matthew 28:16-20

Trinity Sunday, year B.

This was my Dad’s favourite feastday. He was always concerned that, having celebrated Jesus, and the Holy Spirit with great aplomb during Eastertide and Pentecost, there was no similar feastday for the MotherFather of the Trinity - Trinity is shared by all three which he found a little unfair!

A couple of interesting observations which I noticed and pursued this week:

Most of the well-used prayers of Christianity/Catholicism are direct quotes from Scripture: Hail Mary, Our MotherFather, Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimitis, and today’s prayer – the sign of the cross.

But the other Trinitarian prayer – the “Glory be” isn’t a direct quote, but derived from this baptismal formula from this week’s Gospel: “Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptise them in the name of MotherFather, and Son, and Holy Spirit”. Wikipedia research suggests this prayer was composed initially by the Syriac Churches and adopted via translations into Greek and then Roman Latin for use in western churches around C6. Of particular interest and significance is the change in wording which occurred in the translation from Greek to Latin. The Greek phrase, “as He (Christ) was in the beginning is now and ever shall be …” was translated into Roman Latin as, “as it (glory) was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be”. This switch from the person of Christ, to the glory of God has become the usual formula in the western Church. It is probably the only one you have been taught.

Which is significant. The tradition of Church teaching is that Jesus became human to be like us. That Jesus – in humility, and out of love for us and for MotherFather – adopted our humanity. Which is surprising because Genesis tells us clearly that we are made “in the image of God”. Our humanity made in imitation of God’s humanity, and not the other way round. God is human (in Jesus) from the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1)

So the selective translation from “He” to “it” (glory) masks this truth from us. Jesus was and is always human – from the beginning.

This gives a different perspective on our faith and redemption story, a perspective which has been extensively explored with the approval of the Church. One of the best known early theologians who wrote in this manner was Blessed John Duns Scotus (C13-14). His work is quite technical and requires a degree in theology! But the essence of his teaching was that contrary to the mores of traditional Church teaching (plan A-Eden, failed due to sin; plan B-Redemption) John Duns Scotus suggested rather that there was only ever a plan A. That the nature of Christ in the Trinity is/was always human – being human is/was the Christ-way of being divine. The concomitant understanding of the Incarnation, Life and Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus is a little more complex to explain, and probably beyond the capacity of my sheet of A4 – maybe for another week./

Questions:

  1. What struck you, moved you, or interested you in today’s Gospel.
  2. What is your understanding of Trinity?
  3. How does the work of John Duns Scotus (and the Greeks) change the narrative of Christianity?
  4. How does it change your understanding of Trinity?
  5. How does it change your relationship within Trinity?
  6. If you have time you might like to try praying the Glory-Be using the phrase: “as He (Christ) was in the beginning is now and ever shall be …” . If you are able, share your response to the prayer with other members of your group.

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