Monday, 27 May 2013

Trinity in man

In church yesterday for Trinity Sunday, we saw a bright beam of light from a high window shining over the congregation, a bit like the image on my previous post. A metaphor for the Trinity, of course – if the church represents the world, then the Sun is the Father, the Window is the Son (who shows us the Father), and the Light is the Holy Spirit – the light of grace that comes into the world from the Father through the Son.

In my book Radiance of Being I write about "tripartite anthropology" or the idea of Trinitarian Man in the chapter on Nature and Grace. David Clayton summarizes some of this in his own exposition here. There are several ways of seeing the divine Trinity as it were reflected in the constitution of man, beginning with St Paul and St Augustine. Thomists sometimes object, preferring the dualism of body plus soul to the dualism of soul plus spirit, but it is easy to reconcile the two traditions by regarding the spirit as simply the inner face of the soul – the face it turns towards God.

In his fine book On Liturgical Asceticism, David Fagerberg explains that Christianity inherited the concept of soul as the animating force of a body (animals have souls) from the Greek tradition, and the concept of spirit as the immortal intellectual principle that knows God from the Hebrew. In man, unlike the angels, the spirit functions as the form of the material organism – so we can say either that the soul is the spirit functioning as animating form, or that the spirit is the soul functioning as intellectual principle.

When the body dies, the presence of the soul is withdrawn, and so the soul withdraws into the spirit. This is the same as the confrontation with God – the removal of the veil between creature and Creator. This is also the Judgment, because time is one of those veils now removed, and all our actions in life are seen at once, and their meaning revealed. All that is not compatible with the love of God will be burned away. And when the new body, the new earth, and the new heavens are created (Rev. 21:1), the body will express the spirit (1 Cor. 15:35-57) – instead of somewhat obscuring it, as it does in this life. The Holy Spirit will then shine through it like sunlight through a clear window.

Photo by Lawrence Lew OP.

No comments:

Post a Comment