High Trinity: Giving thanks for all the good things under the sun
Posted by David
Over the past year I have devoted a handful of posts to the subject of the Christian year, and, specifically, to how the liturgical calendar can fund and shape our imaginations. So, in sequence, I’ve looked at Advent, at Christmas, at Christmas again, at Epiphany, and at Ascensiontide. Notably, I neglected to post on Lent, Easter, and Pentecost (I hope I might be able to take up those seasons in the coming year). And, until today, I had yet to post on the longest season of the Christian year: Trinity.
From Advent through Pentecost, the liturgical calendar tells us to look at the great events in redemptive history, both those past and (especially in Advent) those still to come. Trinity, by contrast, is present-focused. It’s about plodding along in ordinary time. In Trinity we spend about half the year thinking about how to live in a good Creation in light of the Triune God’s reign over it. This is time well spent. We are, after all, creatures ourselves, set in a world of other creatures God called “very good.” We need extended time to appreciate the grace that God gives us daily, mediated through His creatures. And more, we need time to better learn how to steward those things God has entrusted us with: how to inhabit our land, our communities, our bodies. This work, incidentally, follows quite naturally from observation of the great Feasts of Easter and Pentecost. The Resurrection was and is a bodily resurrection. The Spirit, sent in power at the first Pentecost, fills the bodies of the redeemed, knits them together into one body – the Church – and, with the earth, groans in anticipating the last liberation of earth and body from their present futility.
And so in Trinity we work out the rightful and yet dearly-bought lordship of the Triune God over the world and the body, bringing His lordship to bear on every aspect of ordinary life: buying and selling, working and resting, sowing and reaping, making war and making peace, being born and dying, marrying and being given in marriage. In sum, you could call this working out the lordship of the Author of life over our stories — those we live and those we tell alike. To the extent we do this well, we may reap in joy. To the extent we do it unwisely or slothfully, we will have to repent. But however we do it, we will learn something very important: that under the sun – even in our redeemed-in-principle world – all is vapor, and our work a vain attempt to shepherd the wind.
Now on the one hand, the vaporousness of life under the sun ought to annoy us in a way that stirs in us a healthy longing for Advent and all that season represents. But if we spend Trinity season stewing in that annoyance, we frankly won’t be much good for anything. We will be men and women for no season. For though the world has been subjected to futility, does it not retain an astounding measure of its original goodness? And was it not subjected to futility in hope? Did not the promise of its redemption follow fast on the heels of the Fall? And, if we don’t have eyes to see and ears to hear these things now, how will we see and hear when every last promise has been fulfilled to the utmost?
Therefore, in these final weeks of Trinity — after months of seeing just how much of its original goodness creation retains, and listening to how the echoes of the promise of redemption resound through the world to this day — we should be thankful. We should give thanks for the last harvests, for the leaves that have persevered into the first weeks of November and, in their age, surpassed the brilliance of their youth. These tell us that there is a peculiar excellence to things that have the perseverance and grace to go on to maturity. They call us to be among them.