The BCP

Trinity Sunday

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

Collect Commentary

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 and this week is the only time in the Church Year 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 Ghost from the Father and the Son to the Church. Thus the EPISTLE with its reference to the ìseven lamps of fireî was taken to point to the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost (see the Confirmation service in the BCP 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 ìHolyî of the heavenly host in the EPISTLE has always been taken by the Church as a praising of each of the Three Persons, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. It is used in the Liturgy for Holy Communion 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.

ìIt 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 archangelsÖ.î

To become more acquainted with the dogma of the Holy Trinity, as that was worked out in the Early Church, we turn to the Quicunque Vult (Athanasian Creed) which is appointed to be used at Morning Prayer on Trinity Sunday in the BCP of 1662. And for a less logical 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, our main vocation on this Sunday and during this week is to adore the Unity and the Trinity of the LORD our God!

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.

 

Epistle Revelation 4.1-11

AFTER this I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne: and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats; and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold: and out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

 

Gospel St John 3:1-15

THERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not; how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.