The following is the text of a sermon preached by Father Hannam
at St James Cathedral at Evensong on Trinity Sunday 2015.
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
On Trinity Sunday the Church brings us face to face with the central mystery of the Catholic Faith: ‘that we worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity; Neither confusing the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.’ That we worship the Triune God. Not that we believe that the Trinity, or even a Trinity, exists or can exist; not that we simply believe that God is somehow One and somehow also Three, but that we worship the Holy Trinity, that we adore the Trinity for who and what it is to be God in His infinite perfections; that, knowing the Holy Trinity—not just knowing about the Holy Trinity, but knowing the Holy Trinity—we seek to love the Holy Trinity with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is for this, and for this alone, that we have been created—to cast our crowns before the All-Holy God, that is, to consecrate our whole being to Him—and to sing with the angels and the saints: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God, the Almighty, which was, and which is, and which is to come! This activity, whether we know it or not, is the happiness we seek; it is the end of each and every one of our desires—both those that seem so clear to us, and those inarticulate desires that cry out from our hearts when the good things we have sought and found still do not satisfy. “Thou hast made us, O Lord, for thyself,” says St Augustine, “and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee!” (Confessions, I.1.i). “Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks,” cries the Psalmist, “so longeth my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God! When will I come to appear before the presence of God?” (Psalm 42:1-2, BCP) We have been created with hearts that have an infinite desire for the Good, and only the All-Holy Trinity, the infinite Good-in-Itself, can satisfy us. We will be satisfied only when ‘we worship’ perfectly the ‘One God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity.’
But perhaps this doesn’t particularly fill us with hope? After all, isn’t the Trinity the business of dry and dusty academic theologians with their dry and dusty books? And isn’t it true, as even they will tell us, that, ultimately, no one can fully understand this Mystery? So who then can ever be happy? Who can be saved?
The answer is found in our second lesson this evening. “No man hath seen God at any time,” declares the Baptist. “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” No human eye has seen God; no human mind has known Him. We can intuit the existence of a god, perhaps, but to know that God—to know Him in His own Life—is impossible. And yet we have been created such that our only true happiness consists in just such a knowledge. And there is a way to that knowledge. “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”—has shown him forth, has articulated Him to us.
Significantly, the Greek word that is translated ‘bosom’ in this passage—kolpos—is used for only one other purpose in the Gospel of John. Near the end of the Gospel, in the narration of the last supper, the evangelist tells us: “Now there was lying on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” At the end of the Gospel, this same disciple is identified as the evangelist himself, the one who testifies of the works of Jesus, whose record is true. The description of the Beloved Disciple reclining upon the bosom of Jesus is significant, and it is significant precisely because of the parallel between this description and that of the Son’s stance in relation to the Father. The eternal Son alone knows the Father, because He is ‘in the bosom’ of the Father; the true disciple, the only one who can know the Son, and thereby know the Father, whom he declares, is the one who reclines ‘upon the bosom’ of Jesus, is in intimate communion with Him, gazing upon His countenance, hanging upon His every word. “Lord, show us the Father,” asks Philip, “and it sufficeth us.” And Our Lord answers: “Have I been so long with you, and yet thou hast now known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father!”
We worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity. We do not worship the doctrine of the Trinity, but the Trinity itself. And to worship we must first know so that we can love. And to that end we must repose upon the bosom of the One who is eternally in the bosom of the Father, for in knowing Him we shall know the Father also. And as we come to know and love, we will be drawn, ever more fully, into that divine Life which is Love itself—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory and dominion, now and forever. Amen.