Three New Names for God
June 3, 2012
Fr. George Smiga
We believe in one God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit. We call this belief the Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity. The Doctrine of the Trinity stands at the center of our faith. But on this Trinity Sunday I think the most useful question we can ask concerning the Trinity is, "What is the Trinity for?"
This is an important question because there is a common misunderstanding that somehow the Trinity’s purpose is to clarify our understanding of God. The Trinity really does not do this. Yes, it tells us that God is one, and it tells us that God is Father, Son and Spirit. But it does not explain how God can be one and three at the same time. Therefore, at least part of the purpose of the Trinity is to remind us that we can never fully understand God. God is greater than us and beyond human knowledge.
The purpose of the Trinity is not to clarify a truth, but to name a mystery. Therefore, as we approach the Trinity, we should not only seek the help of teachers and theologians but also of poets and mystics, because poets and mystics have their own skill in naming a mystery. This what I would like to do with you today. I want to share with you a passage from a Christian mystic about the Trinity. The mystic’s name is Julian of Norwich and in the year 1393 she published a series of visions that she received about the Trinity.
Here is what she says. (Now remember this is mystical writing so it is not logical. You must be loose and go with it as it as it flows.) Julian says, “God showed me a little thing the size of a hazelnut lying in the palm of my hand. It was round as any ball and I thought ‘What can this be?’ My question was answered in general terms: ‘This is everything that has been made.’ I marveled at how this could be for it seemed it might fall into nothingness, it was so small. An answer for this was given to my understanding: ‘It lasts and it shall ever last because God loves it. And in this fashion all things have their being by the grace of God.’ So, in this little thing I saw three properties. The first is God made it. The second is God loves it. And the third thing is God keeps it. And what did I see in this? That God is truly the Maker, the Lover and the Keeper.”
Now, notice what Julian of Norwich has done. She has taken the common three names of God, Father Son and Spirit and replaced them with three others: the Maker, the Lover, the Keeper. She does not intend to dismiss the common names of the Trinity, for they are a part of the tradition. But she has given these new names to stimulate our thought, so that we might probe the mystery of God.
If God is Maker, then all that exists and all that we are is here because God wanted it to be here. God made it. If God is Lover, then God gives of God’s self to what has been made. God sacrifices for our salvation and invites us into a relationship. But God is not only Maker and Lover, God is also Keeper. God protects all that is. God preserves all hat has been made. God will never abandon what God has made.
So God is Maker, and Lover and Keeper. If God can be named by these three names, each one evokes from us a particular response. If God is Maker then we should be people of wonder. We should never take for granted the world around us in all of its beauty and complexity. We should never forget how all that is comes from the hand of God. If God is Lover then we should love in return. If God has given God’s very self for our salvation then our response is to take that love and match it with our own so that we can testify with our love in the lives we live. And if God is Keeper, we should always be people of hope, for God will never give up on us. God will never dismiss or forget us. There will always be a future because God keeps what God has made.
Is our one God, Father Son and Spirit? Of course, but, God can also be Maker, Lover, and Keeper. And if God can be named in that way, we should be people of wonder and hope, loving God back with all of our strength.