Rohr starts the book: “The Blessed Trinity is supposed to be a central – or the paramount – foundational doctrine of our entire Christian belief system. And yet we’re told, at least I was told as a young boy in Kansas, that we shouldn’t try to understand it.” It’s a mystery, we were told. But he adds: “Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand – it is something that you can endlessly understand.”
He continues: “Whatever is going on in God, is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love."
“And God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself.”
Rohr then spends time with this icon called “The Trinity.” It depicts the three at a table, loving each other and sharing a meal. But at the table there is a space for a fourth, and it’s believed the artist put a small mirror there, so the gazer could see that he/she was meant to be the fourth at the table, with the hand of the Spirit pointing toward the open and fourth place at the table, inviting, offering, and clearing space. For you – the Observer! The icon captures all the following life-giving, blessing, and energizing thought.
“At the heart of Christian revelation, God is not seen as a distant, static monarch, but – as we will explore together – a divine circle dance.... My fondest hope would be that these pages would reposition you in the mirror of divine fellowship, with a place at the table.... All creation is invited in, and this is the liberation God intended from the very beginning...."
“Are you ready to take your place at this wondrous table? Can you imagine that you are already a part of the dance?"
“Then let’s begin to explore both how and why!”
Rohr calls for a paradigm shift: a major conversion, a genuine transformation of worldview. Rohr sees history as operating with a static and imperial image of God – as a Supreme Monarch who is mostly living in splendid isolation from the world – and God is always and exclusively envisioned as male in this model – he created. This God is seen largely as a Critical Spectator (and his followers do their level best to imitate their Creator in this regard).
Rohr sees God: “Instead of God being the Eternal Threatener, we have God as the Ultimate Participant – in everything – both the good and the painful."
“How about God being the Life Force of everything?.... How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?”
“Theologically, of course, this revolution repositions grace as inherent to creation, not as an occasional additive that some people occasionally merit...."
“This God is the very one who we have named ‘Trinity’ – the flow who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning."
“Thus, everything is holy, for those who have learned how to see.”
This Trinitarian life and loves flows in and through us: “Whether we know it or not! This is not an invitation that you can agree with or disagree with. It is a description of what is already happening in God and in everything created in God’s image and likeness.”
“St. Bonaventure would later call such a God a “fountain fullness” of love. Any talk of anger in God, “wrath” in God, unforgiveness in God, or any kind of holding back whatsoever, the Cappadocian mystics would see as theologically impossible and forever undone in a Trinitarian notion of God. Nothing human can stop the flow of divine love; we cannot undo the eternal pattern even by our worst sin. God is always winning, and God’s love will win. Love does not lose, nor does God lose. You can’t stop the relentless outpouring force that is the divine dance.”
So Jesus-taught “Christianity” is one of relatedness, love, and unlimited forgiveness. This is in stark contrast to the typical Christian “basic relating to [that other] God out of fear and that religion is, by and large, fire insurance just in case the whole thing turns out to be real.”
A Major Shift
Rohr next makes a major point. This is a significant part of this view, and the paradigm shift he sees as needed and happening. He goes back to Aristotle. Aristotle taught there were ten different qualities to all things. Rohr deals with two: “substance” and “relation.” “What defined substance was that it was independent of all else – so a tree is a substance, whereas “father” is a relationship. Do you understand the distinction Jesus is drawing?
“’Son’ is also a relationship, whereas stone is a substance. Now, Aristotle ranked substance the highest. This is typical of Greek thinking. Substance is that which is ‘independent’ of all else and can stand on its own. It isn’t an adjective; it’s a noun. Nouns are higher than adjectives.”
Rohr says Christianity built itself on this Greek thinking, that substance is higher than relationship. So it made God foremost a substance. “Yet, when this Jesus is revealed to us Christians by calling himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship.”
But now, “we are prepared to say that God is not, nor does God need to be, ‘substance,’ in that historic Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else, but, in fact, God is relationship itself.”
He concludes this section of thought:
“As long as you show up, the Spirit will keep working. That’s why Jesus shows up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one -- a defenseless baby. Talk about utter relationship!"
“... When you don’t give other people any power in your life, when you block them, I think you’re spiritually dead. And not far from evil.
“We – not you, but we – are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness."
“We call this love. We really were made for love.”
And For Dessert
I could end there, but there are some other fine passages from Rohr in this book that I’d like to share in the hope you will like them.
“But it gets even better: we know and accept ourselves in the very same movement in which we’re knowing and accepting God; in surrendering to God, we simultaneously accept our best and fullest self. What a payoff!”
“What, then, is the path to holiness? It’s the same as the path to wholeness. And we are never “there” yet. We are always just in the river."
“Don’t try to push the river or make the river happen; it is already happening, and you cannot stop it. All you can do is recognize it, enjoy it, and ever more fully allow it to carry you."
“This is the great surprise, and for some a disappointment: this divine flow has very little to do with you"
“The flow doesn’t have to flow with you being perfect. It doesn’t have to do with you being right. Nor is it ever about belonging to the right group. You do not even have to understand it. How could you? You have surely noticed that Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals anybody. He just says, as it were, ‘Are you going to allow yourself to be touched? If so, let’s go!’”
“The touchable ones are the healed ones; it’s pretty much that simple. There’s no doctrinal test. There’s no moral test. There is no checking out if they are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage. There’s only the one question:
“Do you want to be healed?"
“If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting, or confident one, the flow always happens, and the person is healed. Try to disprove me on that!”
“The foundational good news is that creation and humanity have been drawn into this flow! We are not outsiders or spectators but inherently part of the divine dance.
“Some mystics who were on real journeys of prayer took this message to its consistent conclusion: creation is thus ‘the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity.’ Once more, the divine dance isn’t a closed circle – we’re all invited!”
“Just like the Trinity, we are not a substance, but a relationship. Always in the process of being loved and passing along love.”
“God as Trinity makes competitive religious thinking largely a waste of time.”
Rohr wrote about a teaching of a man known as Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173). “For God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two, because love is always a relationship, right? But for God to ‘share excellent joy’ and ‘delight’ – and this is where Richard’s real breakthrough is – God has to be three because supreme happiness is when two persons share their common delight in a third something – together. All you need to do is witness a couple at the birth of their new baby, and you know this is supremely true.”
This inspired view is changing my life. It’s a process because I find myself resisting the eureka!, the Halleluia! the union! in it. I’m working on it. I hope you find love and eureka and Halleluia and union in it.