This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday. Each year, I find myself keeled over, guffawing at Lutheran Satire's, "St. Patrick's Bad Analogies" video. In case you haven't seen it, let me share it with you.
Partialism might be my favorite heresy that St. Patrick could never have known. Now, of course Donall and Conall are right. All of the analogies that Patrick utilizes in the video break down. Part of what we as Christians need to embrace is the mystery that the One True God comes to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct persons within the one God.
But at the risk of sounding heretical, I don't want to jettison analogies either. Why? Because all art, at least all religious art, is to some point analogical. For instance, consider Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity, seen below.
What Rublev seems to grasp is the vitality of mystery amidst his own analogical depiction. Each character is functionally the same person, depicted in three times in three different positions. Each defers to another, implying the dance of shared leadership within the Trinity. Yet, Rublev also breaks convention by depicting the Father at all, as well as offering the Holy Spirit a bodily presence. The result is a powerful depiction of the Trinity, one that works more in metaphor than in explanation, such that the mystery of God remains.
Consider that in contrast to these images.
Now, each of them functionally describes the Trinity, that the persons are not one another, and yet all are somehow fully and equally the one God. The one on the left is fairly spartan, while the one in the center gets a bit more splashy. And with the Medieval script, the one on the right seems almost opulent. Yet, compared to Rublev's icon, each seems to miss something about the mystery, about the depth and breadth of God's presence.
As we approach Trinity Sunday, perhaps we need more analogies, more metaphors, more images and music, more abstract depictions of who God is and what God does in the world. Like Patrick's analogies, all will fall short of fully and faithfully describing the fullness of God. Yet, each can offer us a new perspective on God that we haven't seen before. Each may offer a new lens that may magnify or clarify God's identity in ways we couldn't have seen without the analogy. We'll never fully grasp the fullness of God, but each new look helps us to know God more. That's a beauty worth exploring, even through our bad analogies. And Patrick's, too.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.