The Trinity is NOT a Nuclear Family.

Reports from the USA are that the Catholic Bishops have chosen the important celebration of the Trinity to encourage parishioners to oppose marriage equality. This initiative is bizarre, incomprehensible. However one views the Trinity, this is emphatically not a model of the nuclear family. 

Icon of the Trinity

At the simplest level, of the two persons of the Trinity, in the popular imagination two are emphatically male – as Father and Son. The third, the Holy Spirit, is sometimes thought of by progressive Christians as female, mostly in the interests of gender balance. Each of these three persons is in a deeply loving, intense relationship with each of the others, which leads the iconoclastic queer theologian Marcella Althaus – Reid to describe the Trinity as being in a permanent polyamorous orgy with itself.

But a closer look shows greater complexity. God the Father is also thought of as God the Creator – notable for calling all of creation into being  But creation is generally thought of as a particularly feminine attribute. Similarly, many of the most conspicuous characteristics of Jesus Christ during his life on earth, those of listening, healing, and sensitivity to others, are those usually thought of as feminine. There is little in the figure of Christ to fit with the male stereotypes of aggression, competitiveness, or bragadaccio.  Not only is the Trinity as a whole of indeterminate, shifting gender identity, but the same can be said of each of the three persons. The Trinity is a symbol of diversity and gender ambiguity – and emphatically not one of the (misleadingly) so – called “traditional family”..

And so, I offer again this early Christian hymn to the Trinity, take from the “Odes of Solomon” (in which it is Ode 19).

A cup of milk was offered to me,
and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord’s kindness.
The Son is the cup,
and the father is he who was milked;
and the Holy Spirit is she who milked him;
Because his breasts were full,
and it was undesirable that his milk should be released without purpose.
The Holy Spirit opened her bosom,
and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father, ……
The womb of the Virgin took [it],
and she received conception and gave birth
So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies. 
And she labored and bore the Son but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose.
And she did not require a midwife, because He caused her to give life.
She brought forth like a strong man with desire, and she bore according to the manifestation, and she acquired according to the Great Power.
And she loved with redemption, and guarded with kindness, and declared with grandeur.
Hallelujah.

Rather than the bishops’ misappropriation of this feast for their own political ends, here’s an alternative thought for Trinity Sunday, from Equally Blessed:

 

SomethingToThinkAbout-60

 

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5 comments for “The Trinity is NOT a Nuclear Family.

  1. May 27, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Thank you for sharing this article. No one says that the Trinity is a nuclear family in the sense that the Father is the traditional male and the son female with the Holy Spirit being the product of their relationship. That would be absurd. In the first place, the Trinity is mystery that only Jesus Christ revealed to us. No other person revealed this aspect of the Godhead to us. So if we are honestly going to grasp anything about the Trinity and what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, we must look to revelation first. From revelation, we find that the Father is unbegotten, He does not receive being from any thing outside Himself. He knows Himself and His perfections so much that from this the Son is eternally generated. That is why Jesus can say in this Sunday’s reading, “All that the Father has is mine.” From this mutual love which is so intense proceeds the Holy Spirit from all eternity. By self-knowledge the Son is generated such that He is called Wisdom and Jesus affirms this by saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” By loving self, the Holy Spirit is generated such that He is called the Spirit of love.

    From this we find a communion of love and life in the Trinity that is based on the relations of the divine persons to each other. when we say that we are created in the image and likeness of God, we should humbly acknowledge that this means that we too bear this vocation of love and life within us. Every single human person bears this imprint in their souls, whether we call them gay, straight, transexual, bisexual, cross gender, Catholic, Protestant, free-thinker, etc. This vocation is inherent in every single person in the first place and it is evident when a man and a woman unite to each other in a marriage that is permanent, exclusive, faithful and life-giving.

    For sure the Holy Trinity is not a nuclear family just as God is not man. But man is a being only in relation to God who created him and keeps him in existence. The mark of the Godhead is in all His creation, man included and in the human family such that man and the human family can only be fulfilled when they live in accord with the image of the Triune God. This means that man, alone and in the family, the basic unit of social life, must reflect a mutual love with each other that is to be open to give of life, both natural life in the procreation and education of children, and also to a growth in his own spiritual life.

    The article states that the “Trinity is a symbol of diversity and gender ambiguity – and emphatically not one of the (misleadingly) so – called “traditional family” ” That is a statement that does not resonate with what we know about the Trinity from Revelation. How can one bring in ambiguity in talking about the God who is the Truth? Jesus reminds us that the Spirit will guide us to all truth. Jesus Himself is the Truth. “Ambiguity” smacks of projecting deceptive human tendencies to God. We cannot understand the mystery of God completely but He has revealed something to us in His Son Jesus Christ so we should not accuse Him of ambiguity in His revelation.

    The natural consequence of the Trinitarian Creator God and our dependence on Him is that we cannot honestly evaluate our human conduct and the nature of our relations with others without reference to what we know from revelation about the Trinity.

    I await your honest response to these points. I believe that only by honest and prayerful sharing that we can begin to understand each other better.

    God bless.

    • May 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      And thank you for taking the trouble over a full response. I will not here go into any full response on the matter of the family, on which I have written copiously on these pages before. Instead, I restrict myself to the discussion of the Trinity, on which I think we are probably in greater agreement than you suppose. I am not denying in any way that God is Truth, nor am I using ambiguity to indicate any kind of deception. All I mean here, is that there is fluidity in the gender identity of the three persons – with which you agree. The Trinity is indeed a “mystery”, and so to attempt to identify any part with human gender identities is futile.

      Where I take strong exception to your argument, is in your statement “that man and the human family can only be fulfilled when they live in accord with the image of the Triune God. This means that man, alone and in the family, the basic unit of social life, must reflect a mutual love with each other that is to be open to give of life, both natural life in the procreation and education of children, and also to a growth in his own spiritual life”. Your second statement does not follow logically from the first.

  2. Chris Sullivan
    May 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I think that the human family, father, mother, and child, is a very apt analogy to the Holy Trinity. The love of man and woman is fruitful and from that love proceeds a third person.

    Gay love can certainly be fruitful in the sense of a shared love proceeding outward but it is not the kind of love which generates a person; so it is not the same image of the Holy Trinity.

    Our priest mentioned this in a homily Sunday and I think the point the US Catholic Bishops seem to be trying to make is very valid.

    God Bless

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