Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Triune God Revealed in Nature

by Clare Brauer-Rieke

Happy St. Patrick's Day! In the United States, St. Patrick's Day has come to be mostly a day on which you must wear green or be pinched; it is also a day of great libations. Understandably - as St. Patrick's Day is first and foremost an Irish holiday - there is little reflection about the holiday's roots and original expression. Happily, a little research proves worthwhile.

St. Patrick is best known in Ireland as the perhaps most significant Christian evangelist to the Celtic Irish. Ireland was one of the very few places in which conversion to Christianity was a peaceful one, thanks largely to the ways in which Christian evangelists and Celts folded their spiritual wisdom and beliefs together as complementary rather than opposing traditions. Legend informs us that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish people, to whom nature was deeply central.

In God in Creation: an ecological doctrine of creation, theologian Jurgen Moltmann writes of the importance of our understanding of the Trinity in a creation-honoring Christian perspective:

We should see [the Trinity] as at once the most intense excitement and the absolute rest of the love which is the wellspring of everything that lives, the keynote of all resonances, and the source of the rhythmically dancing and vibrating worlds. . . . All relationships which are analogous to God reveal the primal, reciprocal indwelling and mutual interpenetration of the trinitarian perichoresis: God in the world and the world in God; heaven and earth in the kingdom of God, pervaded by [God's] glory; soul and body uniting in the life-giving Spirit to a human whole; woman and man in the kingdom of unconditional and unconditioned love, freed to be true and complete human beings. There is no such thing as solitary life.

We are as creation what has come to be coined "interbeing," in the same way that the triune God is a relational mutuality. We necessarily affect each other and all things living in creation. May we learn from the example of St. Patrick the value of listening to the other and sharing meaningfully our own story; may we find the triune God present in the world around us; and may we celebrate the richness of our lived-together life on this beautiful planet.

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