Trinity

I say “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” a lot: mostly when I start praying. I generally make the sign of the Cross at the same time.

The sign of the Cross is a very “Catholic” gesture. It “reminds us in a physical way of the Paschal Mystery we celebrate: the death and Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.”1

It’s a prayer, a blessing, and a sacramental; and that’s another topic. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 16681670)

Dali’s “Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus)” is very “Catholic,” too; although not it’s not like the mass-produced 19th-century stuff many associate with our faith.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a half-millennium from now, some tight-collar Catholics will be upset by new art that doesn’t present the Cross as an unfolded tesseract, and that’s yet another topic. Topics.

This morning’s readings, Genesis 12:14A; 2 Timothy 1:8B-10; and Matthew 17:19; cover something like a dozen centuries, from the time Abram went west — literally, not figuratively — to about two millennia before today.

Abram was re-named Abraham, and now is honored by the Abrahamic religions. (November 29, 2016)

Abraham is “our father in Faith,”2 but almost certainly not among my ancestors. I can’t be sure, but in his day my forebears were probably well north and west of the Holy Land. (February 1, 2017)

There’s been scholarly debate of late, leading some to assume that Abraham lived a whole lot more recently than we thought; or is basically a fictional character.

I’m not surprised that we’ve got precious little documentation on him. The Late Bronze Age collapse, a few really bad decades between 1200 and 1150 BC, happened a few centuries after he left Haran. I’m surprised we remember as much as we do.

We haven’t had anything quite like the Late Bronze Age collapse since, happily.

Hypothetical Smith

Let’s say that today God tells a Mr. Smythe to move from Baltimore, Maryland, to Fremont, Nebraska.

This is all hypothetical. I’m just making a point about how record-keeping isn’t always up to 20th century standards.

Mr. Smythe moves, and changes his name from Smythe to Smith. Then, around the 24th century, something catastrophic happens. It might be a global war, overconfidence in a system that looked good on paper, whatever. Think the 2012 India blackouts on a global scale, micromanaged by an incompetently paranoid bureaucracy.3

Details would be different from the Late Bronze Age collapse, but the effects would be similar.

We still don’t know exactly what happened some 3,200 years ago.

I’ll be optimistic, and assume that survivors start rebuilding civilization; as we did before. A few would even have enough free time to teach their kids how to read and write.

Different folks would tell different stories about what happened. Some would pass along lore from earlier ages. Many records would be lost.

We could get tales as historically accurate as Homer’s account of the Trojan War and Plato’s Atlantis. These would get passed on, too. We like good stories.

Around the year 5500, some scholars might decide that our Mr. Smith didn’t exist. They’d have a point, sort of, since his Social Security Number isn’t in any surviving records.

Interestingly, many scholars think there’s something real behind Homer’s “Illiad.”

Scholiemann finding what’s left of Troy probably helped. I’ve heard that he dug through, and obliterated, what might have been evidence that would have supported some of his claims, and that’s yet again another topic.

Remembering

I’m pretty sure that Plato’s Atlantis, from his “Timaeus” and “Critias,” is fictional. It’s a good story, though, and I enjoyed George Pal’s “Atlantis, the Lost Continent.”

Enthusiastic folks like Ignatius L. Donnelly helped fuel my culture’s occasionally-misguided interest in lost civilizations, and assorted New Age goofiness.4

Plato might have gotten the idea for his fictional city from real events.

A civilization flourished on Crete from around the time construction started at Ġgantija to when Thutmose III was making Egypt a superpower. We started uncovering their ruins about a century back. Somewhere along the line, we started calling them Minoans.

Scientists and archeologists aren’t sure how, or if, the explosive eruption at Santorini affected Minoan civilization. They survived the eruption, but someone or something burned at least some of their cities not all that long after.

The “Minoan eruption” may or may not be half-remembered in the Titanomachy described in Hesiod’sTheogony.”

As a Wikipedia page put it, “there are no clear ancient records of the eruption.” Again, I’m not surprised.

Descendants of Abraham’s son Isaac and Rebecca remembered who they were. Some of them, anyway.

But even after a 40-year reality check on their way out of Egypt, some decided that they’d rather put someone or something besides God at the top of their priorities. Repeatedly. That’s a bad idea. (Deuteronomy 8:23; Catechism, 21122114)

Exiles

Assyria was a major power a bit over 27 centuries back, around Duke Zhuang of Zheng’s day.

Assyria’s leaders were trying to unite the (western) world into a single empire. They were succeeding: for the moment.

We call their outfit the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Old Assyrian Empire predates the Late Bronze Age collapse. The Middle Assyrian Empire — our name for it, not theirs — survived the cataclysm, but shrank considerably. That was a resilient civilization.

Assyria had invaded Israel back in Menahem’s day. He paid them to leave. (2 Kings 15:1921)

Ahaz had trouble with Assyria, too, of a different sort. He’d seen an altar in Damascus, and been so impressed that he “…sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar and a detailed design of its construction.” (2 Kings 16:718)

Hezekiah — son of Elah and Abi, daughter of Zarchariah — sorted the mess out, to an extent. 2 Kings 18-1 and following tells about that.

The Assyrian captivity didn’t happen all at once. Tiglath-Pileser III started the process. Sargon II and Sennacherib finished the job, although they didn’t take Jerusalem.

“However, they offended the God of their fathers by lusting after the gods of the natives of the land, whom God had cleared out of their way.

2 Therefore the God of Israel incited against them the anger of Pul, king of Assyria, and of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, who deported the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh and brought them to Halah, Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, where they have remained to this day.”
(1 Chronicles 5:2526)

I’m not sure why the chronicler wrote “Pul … and Tiglath-pilesser.” Tiglath-Pileser III’s name was Pulu when he had the Assyrian royal family killed, and took over. Two more-legitimate rulers had been named Tiglath-Pileser before that, which could explain it.

Later, around the time that Zhou dynasty’s King Kuang died, Egypt’s Necho II planted Jehoiakim on the throne in Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 36-36)

That was after one of the battles at Meggido. This one was between Nebuchadnezzar II’s Babylonian forces and Necho II’s Egyptian army. We call that iteration of the Babylonian Empire the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Nebuchadnezzar II and Necho II lost the Battle of Carchemish. That’s not the way Nebuchadnezzar told it. In fairness, Nebuchadnezzar still had a fairly-effective army.

Jehoiakim switched sides. Nebuchadnezzar returned the favor by sacking Jerusalem, which started the Babylonian captivity. 2 Chronicles 36-36 sums up Jehoiakim’s regrettable reign.

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t last. Neither did the Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian empires. (October 2, 2016)

Many folks, myself included, think highly of Cyrus the Great. For good reason:

“‘Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: “All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”‘”
(2 Chronicles 26:23)

“And they lived happily ever after?” No. We’re not there yet.

The Transfiguration, Briefly

Today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 17:19; talks about the Transfiguration. So do Mark 9:28; and Luke 9:2836. John’s Gospel doesn’t, but does have this:

“And the Word became flesh 9 and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
(John 1:14)

That could be John’s description of the Transfiguration, or not. I don’t know.

God said “this is my Son” at our Lord’s baptism, too: Matthew 3:1317; Mark 1:111; and Luke 3:2123.

The Transfiguration is a sort of sneak preview of God’s kingdom. Peter, James, and John, briefly saw Jesus as, unmistakably, the Son of God. They also perceived the Trinity. (Catechism, 554556)

“…the whole Trinity appears—the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud…”
(“Summa Theologica,” Thomas Aquinas, III, 45, 4)

As I said, I can’t claim Abraham as an ancestor. Not physically. I do, however, take the “Shema” very seriously:

“שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד
“Sh’ma Yisra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
(From Shema, Judaism 101)

God is ONE

I don’t understand the Trinity. Not on an operational, nuts-and-bolts level.

God’s God, I’m not, so I can’t.

The Trinity is a mystery — 20-20 hindsight lets us see hints of the Trinity in the universe and Old Testament, but we weren’t going to reason it out. God had to tell us. (Catechism, 237)

The best way I’ve found of quickly describing the Trinity is a “Shield of the Trinity,” or “Scutum Fidei.” It’s that diagram with “The Father,” “The Son,” and “The Holy Spirit” in the corners.

Christians are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We’re following orders our Lord gave us, right before leaving:

11 Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
“Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'”
(Matthew 28:1820)

It’s the name, not the names. That’s because God is One: “the almighty Father, his only Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.” (Catechism, 233; “Summa Theologica,” Thomas Aquinas, I, 31, 1)

We still aren’t at the “happily ever after” part.

What we read about in Matthew 28:1820 and Acts 1:1011 happened about two millennia back. Our Lord is doing whatever’s mentioned in John 14:3, and our standing orders haven’t changed. He told us to “be prepared” for his return, which I think is a good idea.

And that’s still another topic. (November 27, 2016; October 30, 2016; October 2, 2016)

More, mostly about taking Jesus seriously:


1 Sign of the Cross:

2 “Our Father in faith:”

3 I don’t intend that as a description of India’s handing of the 2012 situation. Preparations and responses could have been better, but they could have been a lot worse. I think letting folks build their own backup systems helped:

4 I have some sympathy for folks who like “New Age” stuff. However, I also am quite convinced that it is a bad idea, along with letting anything — money, politics, pleasure, family, fame, whatever — except God take first place in my priorities. (Catechism, 1723, 21122114, 2289, 2424)

At nearly 25,000 none-too-easy-reading words, it’s more than a one-sitting read; but I recommend this as a serious analysis:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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