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Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity
Q: I have just turned 73 and for most of 50 years I have practiced Buddhism – Zen, later Vajrayana, and more recently Theravada (Vipassana meditation), although I was briefly a Catholic from age 14 to early 20s when my family converted.
I have studied world religions extensively, even trying a form of Vedanta meditation for a while. However, quite by chance I discovered Open Mind, Open Heart, by Father Keating, and the Centering Prayer movement, and I feel I am being drawn towards an awareness of God, especially with the daily practice of Centering prayer, wishing to go deeper. But, I am not sure at this stage that I want to come back into the Catholic church. I am reading Christian literature quite a bit, the Bible, Cloud of Unknowing, The Desert Fathers, etc., and trying to understand if Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity has meaning in my life. At the moment I think of God somewhat as Brahman, formless, loving, etc., but can understand God manifesting as Krishna, Shiva and others. So I can see that Christ is a manifestation of the Father, but haven’t grasped the Trinity as yet.
Maybe I should just continue with the Centering Prayer, and not worry too much about the rest, for the moment. I would very much appreciate a few words from you on my, probably confused ramblings!
A: Well done for 73! I am 78. Let's see what we can come up with together.
Scholars have said that there has been a shift in spirituality in the last 60 years or so. The trend is that people have moved from a Spirituality of Place - belonging to a particular church or house of worship - to a Spirituality of Seeking - people leaving the place and going on a spiritual journey of seeking - to a Spirituality of Practice - people now focusing their spirituality on a discipline and practice that is not necessarily affiliated with place or a sense of seeking. At this stage, the journey now moves within. With experienced seekers, eventually, there does seem to be a returning to place, a venue, a home. This could be what you are feeling - a return. Now this usually is not a giant step, but smaller steps, where one begins to take a second look at previous experiences and teachings. For you, this is Christ manifesting the Father. At some point, as you continue in curiosity, holding the question of the meaning of the Trinity, more will be revealed. It is an essential Christian mystery.
You might enjoy this about the Trinity from Richard Rohr, in his latest book, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self:
“… God is more a verb than a noun: God is three “relations,” which of itself is mind-boggling for most believers. Yet it opens up an honest notion of God as Mystery who can never be fully understood with our rational, instrumental, mechanical minds. God is a process rather than a clear name or idea, a communion, Interbeing itself and never an isolated deity that can be captured by our mind.
“Christians believe that God is formlessness (the Father), God is form (the Son), and God is the very life and love energy between those two (the Holy Spirit). The three do not cancel on another out; rather, they do exactly the opposite. God is relationship itself and known in relationship, which opens up a huge conversation with the world of science and physics and therapy too …
“The main point I want to make here … is that the most ancient and solid theology of the Trinity proceeding from the Cappodocian fathers of the third and fourth centuries, and adopted by the Councils of the Church, says that God is a circle dance (perichoresis) of total outpouring and perfect receiving among three intimate partners, who receive their Total Self from another and then hand it on to another, who repeats the self-emptying act of love to a third …
“All is constant changing of forms through a nonstop process of loss and renewal, death and resurrection, losing the self and finding a larger self – just as in God and in the teaching of Jesus …”
My advice is to keep on your path. Be open to be surprised, and know that your heart’s desire is known by the Almighty. Be at peace.