Dances and Kisses: Most Holy Trinity 2020

perichoresis. Source:

The Church celebrates Trinity Sunday today. Jesus reminds us elsewhere in the Gospel: I am with you always, to the end of the age. This Feast is an invitation for us to ask how the Lord is with us.

There is an infinite variety of ways of experiencing God with us. We relate to God in ways that make sense to each one of us. God is a mystery to us. We can never claim to fully know God. We can seek interior knowledge of God, but there is always room to grow, realizing that there are infinite depths to the nature of God.

Since the beginning of Christianity, we have referred to the relational nature of God: the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We hear in the Gospels that we are invited to share in their unity.

Like all candidates for the priesthood, I took a Trinity class during my Master of Divinity program. I can’t say that I remember everything that was offered in Fr. Tibor Horvath’s class. But I do remember the words perichoresis and circuminsession.

The first is a Greek term that basically describes the intimate relationship of fellowship and oneness of the Father and the Son, united in the Spirit. The second is a Latin term.

I recall Fr. Horvath using these words to describe a sacred dance between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, between the divine and human natures of Christ. In a similar way, John of Damascus, saw perichoresis as a cleaving together. The Father and Son are one in being and one in the intimacy of their friendship. They embrace each other and permeate each other. Plenty of Christian art and symbols try to illustrate this.

I also recall Fr. Horvath telling us about St. Bernard of Clairvaux and how he viewed the Holy Spirit as the kiss of God. His exact words from his Sermon on the Song of Songs: If, as is properly understood, the Father is he who kisses, the Son he who is kissed, then it cannot be wrong to see in the kiss the Holy Spirit, for he is the imperturbable peace of the Father and Son, their unshakable bond, their undivided love, their indivisible unity.

What does all this mean for us? These theological contributions are a way of saying that God is dynamic and alive. If God is described like that, so also should my relationship with God be. St. Ignatius of Loyola stresses that the spiritual life is alive. Stagnation is an enemy of the spiritual life.

In all likelihood, no one is ever going to ask us to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. What they are usually more interested in is whether or not we have a relationship with God, and whether or not the relationship is alive and growing. One way of measuring that is by looking to see if my relationship with God has made a difference in my life. Am I more compassionate than I used to be? Am I loving and forgiving?

Our image and understanding of God develops over the course of life. The way I see God as I approach my sixth decade is not the same understanding I had when I was six years old. I’ve grown and changed. The world around me has changed.

There’s a good quote from Saint John Henry Newman about the reality of change: In the higher world it is otherwise, but here below, to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. If our relationship with the Divine is alive, we’ve probably changed quite often. Hopefully we are moving closer to perfection in God!

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Gabrielle Feuvrier
    Posted at 08:33h, 07 June Reply

    thanks Philip!

  • John Meehan SJ
    Posted at 11:21h, 07 June Reply

    Thanks, Philip, for this beautiful reflection. That is one of my favourite Newman quotations!

  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 12:42h, 07 June Reply

    As did you Phil, so have I seen an evolution in my faith in my older years. Maybe this is part of what “open to change/growth” means? I like the translation of the Greek “spiro” ie) the breath, and hence to the English words….”the Spirit of God” meaning “the Breath of God”.
    When we stop breathing ie) when we die… our spirit passes to a new life with God. What that will be is for the Creator to determine/understand.For my little creature’s brain, this is what we refer to as a “mystery” .
    Again you have strengthened my faith. Thanks Phil.

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 16:25h, 07 June Reply

    A very helpful piece on a very difficult topic.

  • Indira Noro
    Posted at 09:39h, 09 June Reply

    I have noticed that the priests and deacons at my parish tend to shy away from this topic, thank you for tackling it.

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