Dances and Kisses: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


We celebrate Trinity Sunday today. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Trinity 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: Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We hear in the Gospels that we are invited to share in their unity.

I took a Trinity class during my theological studies. I can’t say that I remember everything that was offered in Fr Tibor Horvath’s class at Regis College. 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 at 65 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 St 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.

  • John McManus
    Posted at 06:08h, 30 May Reply

    Thank you for this Philip. I too am 65, and I have discovered a wonderful thing. I know change – I have lived a life-time full of often-times unnoticed change as I rushed from one thing to the next, but now I cannot ignore the reality of my muscles softening and my energy levels decreasing. I am forced to do less, and I have discovered that I really have less to do (having wasted so much energy on doing things that, upon reflection, did not need to be done, or should not have been done), and that I accomplish more and draw more satisfaction from what I do. I have fewer friends, but they are all good friends. I find myself listening more, even (and especially) to the silence, and reflecting more on what I hear. I say less, saving my words for what is truly important. I know that I will never truly understand the fantastic mystery of the Trinity, but I do know that I sit in the midst of the Dance, that it swirls around me, enveloping me in its joy and love. The privilege of growing older is that it allows us the opportunity to prepare for eternity.

  • Jenny Cafiso
    Posted at 08:47h, 30 May Reply

    Beutiful and profound Philip. What a great way to start this Sunday with a sense of movement, of change and discovery, towards greater meaning and depth

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:06h, 30 May Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Dee Sproule
    Posted at 14:40h, 30 May Reply

    Oh my gosh, LOVE IT!!!
    Thank you, Philip!

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 16:00h, 30 May Reply

    Thank you for this reflection, Philip. You are so right, our relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit continually change as we age. At this stage, I refer to/think of the Holy Spirit as feminine and I have learned to listen to Her promptings, in the quiet of my prayer space. All the result of having had the privilege to learn from the guidance of a Spiritual Director. Blessings and love to you Philip. Be well.

  • Julie Flynn
    Posted at 22:20h, 30 May Reply

    Such wonderful and beautiful images presented, thank you for sharing this Father Shano!

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