Thursday, 10 May 2012

Trinitarian thoughts

The Cemetery is a place of reintegration and of community and has been so from a period before the introduction of Christianity in Britain. The dead are reincorporated with their compatriots and the sextons of the past ensured that the dead were stacked and layered to wait for their Resurrection.

The Trinity is a complex doctrine of the Christian faith that also implies at a Divine level a continuing integration beyond the understanding of humanity. The Trinity requires study and reflection to be fully understood and we need to bear in mind the idea of intermingling and integration to understand the doctrine. Denominations often have distinctive views of ‘The Trinity’ and often those denominational views are mutually exclusive and the object of intense debate. We often hate the things and ideas that are closest to us and accept ideas that are stranger and from further away. We can see a continuing development of the doctrine of The Trinity over time from a fairly limited statement of belief by the 4th Century Church at Nicea to a much more developed series of beliefs in the 21st century. The Trinity has become a sort of magic that is a test of orthodoxy and a trap for the unwary who speak without reference to the highly technical and specific language often used in the debate.

© Godric Godricson
Many people initially hear about ‘The Trinity’ from Church services in the Nicene Creed which exposes people to the doctrine and emphasises the central importance of the doctrine.

“I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets”. (Wilhelm, Joseph. "The Nicene Creed." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 15 Nov. 2009

The Nicene Creed sets out the very basic and unelaborated tenets of the doctrine without explaining that doctrine in detail and this ‘vagueness’ allows debate, confusion and conflict.

In response; The Roman Catholic Church tried to explain and codify the doctrine as part of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”. Emphasising that the doctrine is a core  ‘mystery’; the Catechism teaches the doctrine in a ‘pithy’ style that draws upon the historical teaching of this particular denomination. Such a mystery relies upon God to reveal the mystery to others and cannot, in isolation, be understood by humanity with reference to reason alone. Equally, the Trinity cannot be understood without reference to the Incarnation. The catechism is a succinct  statement of doctrine that tries to free the denomination from perceived doctrinal error. The Catechism also introduces  specific Church terminology such as "consubstantial Trinity"  which are explained; although,  the explanation is sometimes so highly refined that it is inaccessible for the majority of congregations. Regrettably, humanity tries to understand The Trinity and the interwoven idea of God without thinking about how humanity itself is interwoven in death and for all eternity. Humanity is interwoven in death and in dissolution and although the imagery is sometimes macabre we need to hold onto that idea.

© Godric Godricson

Building on earlier explorations of the doctrine (and acknowledging that some Protestant denominations totally refute the doctrine); Karl Rahner (SJ) has written extensively in this area such as “The Trinity” (1967). Rahner  developed earlier intellectual statements of belief towards a  further refined perception and enhanced an understanding of this doctrine by exploring themes such as the “economic Trinity”  and the “Immanent  Trinity”. Such developments are intellectually complicated and sometimes esoteric although, ultimately, Rahner encourages thinking about the doctrine and it may be that this introspection and reflection may bear fruit as we consider the cemetery.

I would suggest that there are parallels in our consideration of The Trinity and our consideration of death and disintegration as such matters bring humanity together in the ground and in the ashes that we leave behind. Even if we have not lived together, we have the opportunity to coexist together for eternity.

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