Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
—Matthew 28: 18-20
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, a day when we celebrate our unique Christian understanding of God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On Sunday, I will be with Fr. Andy Kruger and the people of Trinity Church, Cranford to celebrate their 150th Anniversary. (I will be with the people of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Woodbridge on Saturday to celebrate their 130th Anniversary as a church.) Celebrating a patronal feast of one of our several Diocese of New Jersey churches named for the Trinity on the weekend of Trinity Sunday. You can’t beat that!
Trinity Sunday is designated as one of the “Principal Feasts” of the Church. Other “Principal Feasts” are Easter Day, Ascension Day, The Day of Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day and The Epiphany. Each of these other Principal Feast days centers around an action or activity of God: the resurrection of Christ, the ascending of Christ into heaven, the bestowing of the Holy Spirit to the Church, the work of the Spirit in the lives of the Saints known and unknown, the birth of the Word become flesh and the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Trinity Sunday on the other hand is about the nature and being of God. Who God is.
Although God as Trinity is strongly implied in the Holy Scriptures—all three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are present throughout its pages—it would take several centuries for a full blown doctrine of the Trinity to emerge. To see what this looked like, you might check out “The Creed of St. Athanasius” found on page 864 among the “Historical Documents of the Church” in The Book of Common Prayer. This document, which is difficult to date with certainty (probably sometime between the Fourth and Sixth centuries is reasonable), reflects the theological development of several centuries.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine, who had himself written an expansive treatise on the Trinity (De Trinitate) in 415 A.D. asks “Can anyone comprehend the almighty Trinity? Everyone talks about it—but is it really the Trinity of which they talk?” He concludes, “Rare indeed is the person who understands the subject of his discourse, when he speaks of that. People argue and wrangle over it, yet no one sees that vision unless he [sic] is at peace.”
The late Anglican theologian John Macquarrie suggested that our understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity was primarily an “elucidation,” that is, an attempt to make something—our understanding of “God”—more clear.
Citing the work of another theologian, one-time Bishop of Durham Ian Ramsey, Macquarrie observes, “the Christian could not get along with the single word ‘God’ as his [sic] key word. A richer, fuller experience of deity demanded a more complex symbol for its expression…The Christian confessed: ‘For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ And in the course of further development this basic Christian conviction found expression in the doctrine of the Trinity.”
Of course, in the end, the doctrine of the Trinity is all about relationships—how God relates to God’s self, to the world God has made. How God relates to us and we to God.in the end, the doctrine of the Trinity is all about relationships—how God relates to God’s self, to the world God has made. How God relates to us and we to God. One of my favorite hymns, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” captures this well:
I bind into myself today, the strong name of the Trinity.
By invocation of the same , the three in one and one in three.
Of whom all nature, hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is from Christ the Lord.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit bless and keep you this Trinity Sunday and always.
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
 See “The Calendar of the Church Year” in the Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 15.
 Augustine of Hippo—Confessions Book XIII—tr. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991) page 421.
 Macquarrie, John Principles of Christian Theology 2nd Edition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977) 191
 #370—Hymnal 1982 (New York: Church Hymnal Corporation)