Jules Breton (1827-1906)
Study for ‘The Blessing of the Wheat’ (Corpus Christi Procession), 1857, Private Collection

Dear Friends (Click for audio)

This week, I’ve decided to consider two of the major feasts of the Church together – Trinity Sunday (for which the readings are 2 Corinthians 13:11-end and Matthew 28:16-20) and the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion, or Corpus Christi, which always falls on the following Thursday (and for which the readings are 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and John 6:51-58).

As often mentioned, although the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is so central to Christian life and worship, you will not find the word ‘Trinity’ itself in either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament!  An understanding of the Trinity is, of course, implicit in many Scriptural passages, including the one often described as ‘the Great Commission’, which occurs towards the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, and in which the Risen Lord commands his disciples to ‘make disciples of all nations’, and to ‘baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.  It is accompanied by the great promise to the eleven disciples, and to all those who were to come afterwards, that Jesus is with us always, ‘yes, to the end of time’.

The formula ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ probably reflects liturgical usage within the early Christian community which was known to Matthew – and it was only subsequently, as a response to the Arian controversies of the third and fourth centuries, that the ‘Niceno-Constantinopolitan’ creed (more familiar to us as simply the ‘Nicene creed’) explicitly articulated the understanding of the Church that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are fully divine and, mysteriously, are both Three and yet also One.

The doctrinal debates which preceded (and followed!) the development of this creed can seem obscure, complex and even, perhaps, somewhat irrelevant to the average ‘churchgoer in the pew’ – but they were essential, since they secured the understanding that all Christian worship is Trinitarian, and that through our prayers and praises, and participation in the sacraments, we also participate, in so far as we are able, in the divine life itself, becoming, as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it, ‘partakers of the divine nature’.

And this leads us on, of course, to participation in the Eucharist, which has not been possible for us as a community of faith for many long weeks now.  I’m sure that many of you are feeling the deprivation keenly.  I did mention, in an earlier ‘thought for the week’, the prayer which can be said by way of spiritual communion, and you may wish to use this again during this week, when, in the normal course of things, we would be giving particular thanks for the institution of the Eucharist.  We hope that it will not be too long before we may once again resume this central act of worship but, in the meantime, we can at least give thanks, as the Great Commission puts it, that Jesus is with us always, whatever our circumstances, and ‘even to the end of time’.
Fr Stephen

Collect for Trinity Sunday (Click for audio)

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters, 
put things in order, listen to my appeal, 
agree with one another, 
live in peace; 
and the God of love and peace will be with you. 

Greet one another with a holy kiss. 
All the saints greet you. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
the love of God, 
and the communion of the Holy Spirit 
be with all of you. 

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, 
to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 

When they saw him, they worshipped him; 
but some doubted. 

And Jesus came and said to them, 
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father 
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. 
And remember, I am with you always, 
to the end of the age."