Gleanings from the Collects: Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect is a revision of the 1662 collect for Trinity Sunday. Its roots are found in the Leofic Missal[1]of the 10thcentury.

The collect begins by acknowledging that our “confession of a true faith” is a result of the grace of God. This is so because the truth of the Trinity came to the Church by the revelation of God and not by the reasoning of man. It took numerous Councils, predominately fighting against current heresies, to finally codify this mystery. And it cannot be emphasized enough that a theological mystery is not a problem to be solved but a truth to be proclaimed, even though it cannot be fully grasped. Thus St. Augustine said if we try to understand the Trinity we will lose our minds, but if we don’t believe it we will lose our souls.

The doctrine of the Trinity exposes the error of those who say that they don’t need the Church’s teaching because they have the Holy Spirit and the Bible. If asked how many years it would take them to come up with this doctrine, if they had never heard of it before, the truthful answer would be “Never.” God is a Trinity of Persons and a Unity of Being. This is His revelation of Himself to the Church and it is believed by all Christians from Orthodox believers in Moscow to Baptists in Murfreesboro.

Once this teaching is received by faith[2], the truth of it becomes abundantly clear throughout all of Scripture. At the very beginning of Genesis God speaks the Word to create (the Word that became flesh[3]), while the Spirit is hovering over the face of the deep.[4]In the last book of the Bible we read that the hosts of heaven cry not “Holy” nor “Holy, Holy” but “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”[5]

One of the more interesting type[6]of the Trinity is seen when three men approach Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. When speaking with them Abraham continually uses the singular “Lord.” And the text even interchanges the three men speaking with Abraham with the “LORD” (indicating the Divine Name) speaking to him.[7]  

The collect also informs us that we are not only to “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity” but we are also to “worship the Unity.” The Holy Trinity is more than a truth to be believed, it is three Persons in one God to be worshipped. This we do every time we recite or sing the Gloria each Sunday. And while the acclamation of the Trinity is infrequent in much of Protestant worship it is replete in Anglicanism from the opening acclamation to the final benediction in both the Daily Office and Holy Communion. 

A helpful meditation on the Holy Trinity can be found in the Athanasian Creed.[8]

[1]Anglo Saxon missal

[2]We believe in order to understand we do not understand in order to believe. Anselm of Canterbury

[3]John 1

[4]Genesis 1

[5]Revelation 4:8

[6]types are examples of spiritual realities

[7]Genesis 18:1-21

[8]A 5thcentury creed named for the great defender of the faith.

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