Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trinitas et memoriae

So apparently I've never mentioned the Trinity here. We're all of us allowed these little lapses, I suppose. We've been doing Trinity in my systematic class, and I feel a wee bit bad, because I feel like I had a trinitarian (blogger loses 5 points for not knowing the word trinitarian) phase a few weeks ago, and I feel a little Trinity-worn-out. There's only so long you can spend looking at a Moebius strip before your brain shuts down and you have to go have a nice tall glass of perspective and soda.

That said, I have a few more analogies I want to try out, that have come to me in the course of trying to explain the Trinity to some folks here.

Y'know how in an old TV, you had these pixels that were made up of red, green, and blue phosphors? The Trinity works like that. Turn 'em all on at once, and you have a white pixel. But each light, while still being light (this is the divine ousia, or being), is of a different color (the hypostasis, or person).

The Trinity is also like the Three Stooges. Yes, I'm serious. Three guys, right? But you never seem them when they aren't together. They always work together. They work in tandem, and are interrelated, but they each have a different personality. This one doesn't stretch as far.

Finally, I'll toss this out in a more practical way for me. When I feel a particular need to talk to God about a problem I have, I imagine myself talking to Christ. When I am praising the creator, I'm directing it in my head to the Father. When I am praying for inspiration, or for the blessing of my work, I have in my head the Holy Spirit. But they're all God to me - all of them always working together on whatever's up.

I know that's a bunch of little thumbnails, but, in my head, that's all we're ever going to get of the Trinity. It's worth spending time on a regular basis exploring our ideas of our rather unique Triune God, but a certain point you have to just say: "Yeah. That's weird," and get on with the business of loving your neighbour, etc.

In other news, had a conversation with Updo (she's going to kill me when she finds out that that's her blog name, but I've had worse) about the worth of memorization. Our Professor said something to the effect that we should be teaching the catechism or some part thereof to our youth, so that they will remain embedded in the church after high-school. He specifically underlined the idea that "memorizing something creates an ownership - we posses differently, we truly know things that we have memorized." He also lamented the destruction of memorization in our "sound byte" culture.

I would argue, briefly, that I could go into chapel tomorrow, go up on the pulpit, and say the words "Fezzik - are there rocks ahead?" and a rumble would reply to me "if there are, we all be dead." Memorization is by no means dead - it has simply shifted into secular and popular, rather than ecclesiastical, forms. I think if you could do "Theologian Celebrity Jeopardy," you might be able to sneak in long sections of the catechism. You just have to be subtle.

Updo's point, though, and it's a good one, is that forcing people to memorize things is precisely what has gotten the church to its current bad pass. I'd like Oriana to comment on whether she tries to have her kids memorize the catechism, and what kind of wailing or gnashing of teeth there would be if she did. My counter is that I don't think our professor is wrong - memorization is totally valuable. I just wish there were some way to inspire, rather than force it.

But it is only through iteration and reiteration that we can hope to impose a foreign concept upon a reluctant mind.



Oriana said...

I definitely do not make them memorize. We read aloud, we discuss, we talk about what it means. There's definitely vocabulary there -- I find that it's important for them to have the words to express these feelings and concepts.

Then again, I probably have the worst record out there as a confirmation teacher. I'm at like 50%. (But hey, it was a thoughtful, prayerful 50%, on both sides.)

I have a candle we call the Trinity candle. It's a big square candle with three wicks. How many candles are there? If you say three, I point out there's only one block o' wax. If you say one, I point out that I can light the three wicks at different times, and each gives a different light, etc. The truth is that it really is three candles and it really is only one candle. Neither is true to the exclusion of the others.

I'm particularly fond of the candle.

Elisabetta said...

I'm assuming you know something of the works of Origen, being both a Classics major and at Seminary? (I know only a little, but enough to ask this question). How do you react to his interpretation of the Trinity, if you have yet encountered it?

PS: I like that your blog makes me think.
PPS: I said hello to the Most Serene Republic for you, and appreciated the things you sent me.

The Areopagite said...

I have to say that at the moment, my head is chockablock full of theologians' names and their various positions. To a large extent, Origen predated the Trinitarian debate - his viewpoints were later used by both Arius and Athanasius. His major misstep was one that would later be magnified - he subordinated the Son to the Father in a sharper way than later ecumenical councils liked, and his subsequent followers took those and ran with them (thus his anathematization in 553). Orthodox teaching (I just resisted the quotation marks, but you may insert them if you like) is that, while the Father eternally generates the Son, they are both co-equal, and, in fact, the same being, and so immune to the sorts of hierarchy that Origen included.

All that said, I'm less inclined to stomp on someone for coming down on any side of a debate that hadn't taken place yet. Not much point asking Aristotle whether light is composed of particles or waves. Origen had some other really neat thinking going on, and his influence on especially the Eastern church can't be overlooked.

Hey, what's a blog for, if not for brain-ness? If you're interested, you might look at this book, which is my source for the Most Serene Republic.