April 1, 2020 by Tim O’Connor
“the Spirit of God descending like a dove…This is my beloved Son” (Matt. 3:16-17)
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all depict an extraordinary scene when Jesus is baptized: the Holy Spirit ‘descending’ and ‘coming to rest on’ Jesus, while the Father declares Jesus to be his beloved Son. It is the first intimation in these synoptic Gospels of God’s triune nature. (John’s Gospel refers back to this event in its first chapter, after having dramatically declared in its opening statement that Jesus ‘the Word was with God and the Word was God.’) This distinctively Christian revelation that the one God is three distinct but utterly united persons, and that one divine person ‘took humanity into’ himself without ceasing to be God, is a major part of what makes our faith compelling.
I am a philosopher who spends most of my week ‘grubbing around in the roots of being’ – sitting and thinking about the most basic categories that structure our thinking, such as mind, matter, space, and time. (I know, you’re thinking, ‘Wow, Tim, what an exciting life you lead!”) Do that, and most of the time you’ll find yourself perplexed. As such things go, you adjust, eventually getting comfortable with the idea that there is profound mystery at the heart of all things. Physicists know the feeling. Those who burrow down to the smallest bits of matter describe a strange ‘entanglement’ of widely scattered particles in which the ‘system’ has properties that are more than the sum of the parts. And those who zoom out to study the cosmos as a whole are beginning to suspect that space and time are themselves only part of the ‘appearances’ of things, that physical reality at its deepest level lacks either of those parameters. (Yeah, that makes everyone’s head hurt.)
There is no method to scientifically examine the Lord of life who breathes fire into the equations of physics. But God has let us in on the deepest secret of reality: He who creates and sustains the physical nexus (whatever its deepest features) and all that dwells therein is not just loving, but is love. God is in Himself a loving union. Deep calls unto deep, as the Father begets the Son and they together beget the Spirit. We do not know what exactly begetting is. We know only that it is not the creating of some other thing, but a generative relation internal to God, accompanied by mutual love, joy, and total interpenetrating awareness.
We should regularly meditate on the mystery of the triune God. Doing so will not just enlarge our thoughts of, but also deepen our affections for God – and for one another, as we also consider that we the called-out community are to become like Him.
Read meditatively the 4th C. Athanasian Creed: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/athanasian-creed
Then speak to God words of adoration. Perhaps you’ll find yourself like Dante did at the end of The Divine Comedy. (Great Lenten reading, btw.) After being guided by Beatrice on a tour through hell, purgatory (ahem) and on to heaven, Dante is given finally a vision of God. Here’s how Gustave Doré pictured the scene.