Trinity Sunday has been a Feast Day in the western Church since the fourteenth century. At the very centre of the Christian Faith is the Mystery and the Dogma of the Holy Trinity, into whose Triune Name we are baptized and by whose Name we are blessed. One cannot be a Christian without believing and confessing the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, Three Persons and one God.
This Sunday & week is the only time in the Church Year (in BCP 1662) that the Collect is addressed to the Holy Trinity as one God. Normally the Collect is addressed to the Father through the Son.
The Collect, which adores the Holy Trinity in the divine Unity and Trinity, does not however fit well or naturally with the Epistle [Revelation 4:1-11] and the Gospel [John 3: 1-15] readings. This is because these readings were chosen centuries before the establishment of the Feast, when this Sunday was within the octave of Pentecost. So the readings were originally chosen to contain the great theme of Pentecost, the Gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son to the Church. Thus the EPISTLE with its reference to the "seven lamps of fire" was taken to point to the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost (see the Confirmation service for these). And the GOSPEL with its
reference to being born again/from above by the Holy Ghost was taken to point to the regenerating work of the Holy Ghost in the souls of men.
Nevertheless in both readings there is the revelation of the one true and living God as a Trinity of Persons. The thrice "Holy" of the heavenly host in the EPISTLE has always been taken by the Church as a praising of each of the Three Persons of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. It is used in the Liturgy as such. And in the GOSPEL there is the constant reference to God [= the Father], the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ [the incarnate Son of the Father] and the presence and work of the Holy Ghost who regenerates believing sinners.
The Preface for Trinity Sunday within the Order for Holy Communion of the BCP (1662) is like the Collect unique in that it is addressed not to the Father but to the One Holy Trinity.
It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto thee O Lord, Almighty Everlasting God. Who art one God, one Lord; not one only Person, but Three Persons in one Substance. For that which we believe of the Father, the same we believe of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, without any difference or inequality. Therefore, with angels and archangels..
To become more acquainted with the dogma of the Holy Trinity, as that was worked out in the Early Church, we turn to the Quincunque Vult (Athanasian Creed) which is appointed to be used at Morning Prayer on Trinity Sunday. And for a less logical and more dynamic presentation we read the Nicene Creed which is appointed for use in the Order for Holy Communion on Trinity Sunday. Though we seek to understand (faith seeking understanding), our main vocation on this Sunday is to adore!
GLORY BE TO THE FATHER AND TO THE SON AND TO THE HOLY GHOST, AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING, IS NOW, AND EVER SHALL BE, WORLD WITHOUT END. AMEN.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America