Sunday Readings: Exodus 34.4-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13.11-13; John 3.16-18
“Yes, God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him”. – John 3.16-17
Some theologians today have reclaimed the Greek word perichoresis, which earlier theologians used to describe the Trinity interrelating dynamically as three persons in one love. English speakers know the prefix peri, for example in the word perimeter, meaning all around, near.
We know the meaning of chores from doing them every day, making our rounds. We feed our animals, take out the trash. In Greek chor means to dance around. A chorus is a joyful round dance, circling, intertwining. In musicals a chorus sings and dances, creates joyous music and motion. In any chorus sings intertwine their voices in both harmony and unity.
The early Greek theologians use the word perichoresis in imaging the Trinity as persons-in-communion, who exist in a kind of divine round dance in which no one person is superior or inferior to the other. The three persons together form one source of our being, which like theirs is being-in-relation.
In the image of making rounds, God is a dynamic community, and a community of equals becomes our human ideal. The perichoresis image eliminates the subordination implicit in patriarchal order: the Father first, the Son and Spirit subordinate. It counters the easy assumption when making the Sign of the Cross that the Father is first, then Son, the Spirit in an hierarchical order. Using the circle image of the Trinity allows us to reflect on God as the shared life at the heart of the universe.
It is this image of three persons in God sharing life, rather than the image of the monarch on the throne, that is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In the Trinity an irrepressible loving, creative communion of persons animates the communion of life that is our created existence.
When we use language to describe the mystery of God, we are using metaphor. When we call God father, we are saying God is like fathers we know. In the scriptures we also call God mother, friend, shepherd, lover, fortress, whirlwind. It is important to describe God as richly and fully as we can.
Share names or images of God that have meaning for you. In her book She Who Is, Elizabeth Johnson asks, if we have the choice between “an isolated, static, ruling monarch and a relational, dynamic, tripersonal mystery of love—who wouldn’t opt for the latter”? Which do you favor?
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