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Undescribably Trinal

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

How did Isaiah know that it was the Lord sitting upon the throne? He mentions absolutely nothing about the figure on the throne, unlike the prophet Daniel and St John the Divine who both have some descriptions of the One Who sits upon the throne. Isaiah tells us all about the throne room and the seraphic attendants, so why doesn’t he tell us about God?


 The presence of the Lord clearly fills Isaiah with fear because he is a man of “unclean lips”. This is our first clue as to how Isaiah knows that he is in the presence of God. We see exactly the same behaviour in St Peter who begs Our Lord, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man!” In the presence of God, we become aware of the sin that clings so closely to us and it causes us distress. Where God is, sin cannot be and vice versa. This is why we cannot behold God in all His majesty.

Does this tell us why Isaiah doesn’t describe God to us?


Why is it that Daniel and St John can describe the One on the Throne, but Isaiah can’t? Surely, they are all sinful men like we are?

Or perhaps Isaiah is struggling to find the words. While Daniel and St John see God as a human figure, perhaps Isaiah doesn’t. Isaiah can describe the seraphim, but not God. This actually puts Isaiah in company with Moses who does not see God’s face, but His back. This does mean that Daniel and St John are seeing God in form that they can handle, just like Moses and Isaiah. It doesn’t matter how He reveals Himself, these men know God when they see Him and they know Him by faith despite their sins.


Every encounter with God that we see in Holy Scripture is there from God to tell us about Him. At every stage, He seeks to make Himself visible to people who simply are not able to see Him in full by reason of the sins that afflict us all. This is not a God who turns away from sinners, but rather still wants to be known by sinners. At every stage, He confronts us in love to bring us back to Him. This is why we get a glimpse of the Holy Trinity at the Baptism of the Lord. It is at the waters of Baptism where the wounds of sin are cleansed and thus our eyes begin to be opened, just like St Paul after his experience on the road to Damascus.

Even then, we don’t have the same experiences as Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, or St John but we do encounter God and we will know Him when we do encounter Him because we encounter Him in ways deeper than sight and sense. This is the essence of our hope and faith. We don’t know what we can expect when we encounter God but, when the time comes, we will know it because we believe and keep believing through prayer and study and following His commandments.

We don’t have to understand how the Holy Trinity works in order to be sure that this is what God has shown us about Himself. We don’t have to try and describe the indescribable just to satisfy ourselves that we know God.

Of course, not every voice we here, not vision that we see, nor experience that we have will be from God. We do have to try every spirit that says that it comes from God but this is where God has helped us before we start. God is Eternal, and will not change His message. The Holy Trinity is as present in the first Chapter of Genesis as He is in the last Chapter of Revelation. If any spirit tries to change what we believe about God that is different from what the Church has always taught, then we must turn our back on it. God is faithful to us always, even if we are not faithful to Him.


The Feast of the Holy Trinity is an exercise in knowing God, not understanding Him. Just as we will never know what goes on in the minds of our families and friends, so we will never know Who God is. Yet, if we are willing, we can know God’s presence with us intimately and find peace in Him that words cannot describe, just like Isaiah cannot describe the One upon the Throne.

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