Face-to-face with the Messiah

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. The fuller story of the gospel begins at the end of John 2 where we encounter the gospel writer’s closing statement (vv. 23-25). What seems clear is that a lot more than the temple cleansing took place during Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for this first Passover festival.  There is the one recorded sign at Cana; otherwise the record is silent. Yet, the evangelist, while recording no details, goes on to write “many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.”  Even though many began to believe in Jesus, “Jesus would not trust himself to them.Continue reading

Holy Trinity Sunday: History

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday which is celebrated on the first Sunday following Pentecost in most of the liturgical churches in Western Christianity. It is a solemn celebration of the belief in the revelation of one God, yet three divine persons. It was not uniquely celebrated in the early church, but as with many things the advent of new, sometimes heretical, thinking often gives the Church a moment in which to explain and celebrate its own traditions; things it already believes and holds dear. In the early 4th century when the Arian heresy was spreading, the early church, recognizing the inherent Christological and Trinitarian implications, prepared an Office of Prayer with canticles, responses, a preface, and hymns, to be recited on Sundays to proclaim the Holy Trinity.  Pope John XXII (14th century) instituted the celebration for the entire Church as a feast; the celebration became a solemnity after the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Continue reading

It makes a difference

We have all kinds of solemnities, feast days, and other special days in the church year. We commemorate happenings in the life of Christ: Mary’s visit from Gabriel, the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the maji, the Baptism of our Lord, the Transfiguration when the glory of Christ is revealed, Palm Sunday, the empty tomb and Resurrection of Easter, the glorious Ascension, the explosive coming of God’s spirit to the church at Pentecost … and then we have Holy Trinity Sunday.  And suddenly it is like we have moved from these great events in the life of Christ, and now…. tadah!!  We are celebrating… well… what are you celebrating this Sunday? Take a moment and make a list of the possibilities. Continue reading

Moving towards Wisdom

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. The selection of the first reading from the Book of Proverbs can be seen as a celebration of Wisdom even in the primordial moment of creation. It is as though the scribes are saying, “Look, we are celebrating in our day, what the Lord has provided for us since the dawn of creation.” The dawn when the Spirit hovered over the chaos. Continue reading

Wisdom from the Beginning

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. In the previous two posts we considered the larger tradition of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament, as well as the Book of Wisdom specifically. Today we will endeavor to focus on the first reading for the upcoming Sunday liturgy.

Many commentaries refer to Proverbs 8:22-31 as a celebration of Wisdom even in the primordial. It is as though the scribes are saying, “Look, we are celebrating in our day, what the Lord has provided for us since the dawn of creation.” This shift of focus is marked by the change from “I” (vv.12, 17) to the Lord (vv. 22–31). The section begins with “the Lord” and ends with benê ʾādām (“I found delight in the sons of men”), the climax and aim of God’s creative works.

This section, unified thematically by wisdom’s connection with God’s creative works, falls into two equal stanzas. The first pertains to her origin before creation (vv. 22–26); the second, to her presence and celebration during the creation (vv. 27–31). These two halves are linked by a thematic chiasm:

A, wisdom’s origins (vv. 22–23);
B, the negative state of the creation (vv. 24–26);
B′, positive presentation of the creation (vv. 27–29);
A′, wisdom’s celebration of humanity’s origins (vv. 30–31).

22 “The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; 23 From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;  25 Before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; 26 While as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world. 

The first stanza establishes that wisdom’s has precedence in rank and dignity over the rest of the creation. Wisdom’s precedence is both qualitative (i.e., begotten, not created) and temporal (i.e., existing “before” any other creature). As a result she is competent to counsel and authoritative when she speaks. The stanza’s first strophe represents Wisdom’s begetting in the primordial past (vv. 22–23), and its second strophe represents her begetting before the sea (v. 24), land (vv. 25–26), and implicitly sky (v. 27).

Begotten, Not Created. The language of “begetting,” “created,” and the like has, historically, been the source of great controversies. Beginning at least as early as the apologist Justin Martyr (A.D. 125), Christians, almost without exception, identified Sophia/Wisdom in Proverbs 8 with Jesus Christ. This almost universal interpretation of the passage embroiled the church in controversy about the precise nature of the relationship between God and Christ. From the time of Origen (ca. A.D. 180) patristic exegesis interpreted Wisdom’s birth in Proverbs 8:25 as Christ’s continual coming into existence. Not all agreed with such understanding. Led by the Alexandrian deacon Arius, a group called the Arians held that there was a time when the Son “was not” and thus the Son was created as God’s most exalted creature. They concluded this using Prov. 8:22, “the LORD begot/created me,” as their primary text. In contrast, orthodox Christians held that Christ was of the same substance as the Father, the true Son of God, and not a creature. Orthodoxy interpreted Prov. 8:22 by explaining that the ever-existing Son was “created” when he became incarnate. According to his second strategy, the “creation of Wisdom was actually the creation of Wisdom’s image in creatures as they were brought into being.”

Before all else. The expression “the first born”(rēʾšît) can also be translated as “in the beginning” which has appeal to the Christian ear given the Prologue of the Gospel of John. Verses 22-25 point to Wisdom (Sophia) as perhaps the agent or creative force of all creation. The creation is first described a “what there was not” – depths, fountains, mountains, hills, and fields

Many have noted the movement from the subterranean depth (v. 24a) to the springs leading to the surface (v. 24b) to the visible mountains rooted in the depths (v. 25a) to the hills (v. 25b) to the land and its fields (v. 26) to the sky and its horizon (v. 27)..Sea, land, and sky depict the entire universe of the living. All of this is described with reference to human habitation: from the oceans, which is most remote (v. 24), to mountains, which is less remote (v. 25), and climatically to land, where human beings dwell (v. 26). The latter is progressively intensified from “land” to “open fields” to “arable soil.”

Wisdom Books

This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday. In yesterday’ post we touched upon the “theology and economy” of God’s innermost life which is a fundamental part of the Christian creed. In many forms, the Trinity and all that it implies in terms of person and nature, is at the heart of a whole range of heresies during the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries. But there was no Sunday that was universally dedicated to this most fundamental of beliefs – not until the 14th century. As noted yesterday, this week I plan to consider the first reading from Proverbs in which the focus is on the oikonomia of the Wisdom of God. Let me provide some context with an overview of the Book of Proverbs (adapted from a word by Rev. Donald Senior). Continue reading


Great-CommissionDoubt/hesitation. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Mt 28:17 – part of the gospel for Holy Trinity Sunday). Many English translations offer “but some doubted.” Unfortunately the word “some” does not appear in the Greek text. The only two valid translations are “they worshiped, but they doubted (hesitated)” or “they worshiped and they doubted (hesitated).” It is hard to avoid the simple statement of the text: those who worship are also those who doubt.

Mark Allan Powell writes about this verse in his book, Loving Jesus [121]. Continue reading

Holy Trinity: theology and economy

Great-CommissionAs some critics rightly point out, nowhere in Scripture does the word “Trinity” appear. Their argument is then that the idea of a Holy Trinity is a human doctrine. Yet, Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men ‘and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.” (CCC§234). Continue reading

Liturgy, Heresy and Creed

Great-Commission16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:16-20) This coming Sunday the Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Continue reading