Reflecting on the reality of baptism, Diadochus – a theologian of the early church – writes, “Before a person comes to be baptized, grace is at work, from without, encouraging the soul toward the good, while Satan is at work, from within. After baptism, the contrary is the case. Grace works from within and the demons from without. These continue their work, and work even more evilly than before, but not as present together with grace. The only way they can work is through the promptings of the flesh.”
Today, we as church, reflect on that most profound of mysteries – the Trinity. As Christians we believe and we profess that God is one and that God is three. We are not Unitarians and neither are we Jehovah Witnesses – both of which deny the Trinity. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we have been brought to the realization that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God.
I believe that the quote by Diadochus concerning baptism can help bring us to the only point by which we can begin to contemplate this mystery – from within. “After baptism, the contrary is the case. Grace works from within and the demons from without.” The mystery of the Trinity is not a problem to be objectively solved or a riddle that can be puzzled through by our wits alone. The Trinity is a mystery to be lived. This mystery demands the involvement and engagement of the whole person – mind, body and spirit.
God initiated the invitation to this mystery. In John’s gospel we are reminded that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son … For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) Through God’s love and God’s initiative (as known in baptism) we are brought into communion with God and into the relationship that is the Trinity.
It is here, in this reality of lived relationship, that we begin our awareness of God as three. Paul – in his second Letter to the Corinthians – writes, “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:12) Paul firmly connects how we live our lives with the presence of God: “Mend your ways … and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Awareness and knowledge of God can only begin from within. Paul is calling for a sincere examination of conscience here. Are we living our lives in such way that Father, Son and Spirit are welcome to come, reside and be present?
In God’s great revelation to Moses the Lord defines himself by proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” (Ex. 34:6) Again, awareness and knowledge of God can only begin from within. If God defines himself as “merciful” and “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” then why would he make himself present and known in a heart that lacks these qualities?
God has taken the initiative and invites us into relationship with himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit but this mystery, to be authentically known, must first be lived.
It has to begin from within; from how we choose to live our lives.