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  • Writer's pictureKatie Davis-Crowder

In the Beginning was the Conversation


As a high school theology teacher, I often find myself in the midst of unexpected conversations. I will have my plans organized “just so”—lessons written, slides curated, activities prepared—when a lightbulb appears over the head of a curious 16 year-old, and they pose an insightful, evocative question that halts everything. Well, there goes my plan!


Then there’s that beat in between question and response: the pause…the liminal space between where we were and where we’re headed…the ellipsis within which words cease momentarily, and images and gestures emerge in my imagination and body instead.

Looking back on thirteen years of working with teenagers, the topic that most frequently has provoked such moments is the doctrine of the Trinity, the Solemnity of which we celebrate today. Flowing out of last week’s Pentecost celebration, this feast challenges us to consider what Christians believe about God’s Self-revelation as Trinity, one God in three persons. And since you and your fellow readers can’t see the flowing hand motions and quasi-dancing and infinity symbols I tend to draw on the board to accompany my enthusiastic explanation of the Holy Trinity, I trust you’ll bear with me as I reflect on this central teaching in words alone.


Today’s readings honor the beautiful relationship among the Father, Son, and Spirit. This powerful imagery begins and ends most Christian prayer experiences, permeates liturgy and Sacraments, and serves as the basis of the Creed. Some theologians and practitioners of Christianity prefer describing God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, or as Creator, Liberator, and Sustainer. This language has led to some controversy, due to concerns that God performs these actions, but God is not these actions. Nevertheless, I would argue that if this expression of Trinity helps people grow in relationship with God, then so be it! Everything we say doesn’t need to say everything, after all.

My favorite articulation of Trinitarian Relationship has served as the heart of my own personal spirituality since I first read it in graduate school, and it has drawn me more deeply into this central Mystery ever since. St. Augustine expressed Trinity as God the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love between Them (or Love Itself). Trinity—Love—is dynamic. It cannot not move. It IS movement—always giving, always receiving, always fully present as Love, Love, Love. As Franciscan Richard Rohr says, “Love’s core characteristic is flow.”

Regardless of your preferred language for the Trinity, the point of this central doctrine is clear. God is not just in relationship, but God IS relationship. God is not just in community, but God IS community. So if we believe that all human beings are made in God’s image, then it follows that we are wired for Love, for relationship, for community, too.


In the prologue to the Gospel of John, we find some of the roots of Trinitarian theology. “In the beginning was the Word (the Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God. And the Word (Logos) was God.” In her book Wild Church, Victoria Loorz reflects on the Greek philosophical idea of Logos developed by Hericlitus in the 6th century BCE. Simply stated, Logos is the rational organizing principle of the universe. Early translations include “everything flows,” “the unity of opposites,” and “the force that animates all things.” Slightly later philosophers used Logos to describe “reasoned discourse,” “dialogue,” and “conversation.” In Mandarin, Logos is Dao, which means “going with the flow,” or “the way the universe operates.”

The evangelist took Logos a radical step further in John’s Gospel by applying it to God embodied in the person of Jesus. In other words, not only was God the Father present in the beginning, but the inextricably linked Trinity has always been and always will be. Loorz blew my mind by explaining that the only translation I had heard before—Logos as “The Word” in Latin—was not used until after the 4th century CE under Constantine’s empire. It’s not lost on me how beneficial such a translation—THE Word—must have been for Constantine and for other power people after him. It makes me wonder: what happened to flow? To animating force? To dialogue? To conversation?


Today, what might it mean for us spiritually, especially as women, to consider the Holy Trinity as Conversation? Just like my students invite me to dialogue when one-sided lectures might feel “easier,” perhaps God as Conversation might spark new possibilities in our Church of “THE Word.” What might unlock within us if we were to pray, “In the beginning was the Conversation. And the Conversation was with God. And the Conversation was God.”?


 

Katie Davis-Crowder, MDiv, is a Chicago-based teacher, spiritual director, singer, writer, and presenter rooted in the Mercy and Ignatian traditions. She is passionate about spirituality, social justice, and the arts, and loves building home with her partner Kevin and pup Smartie. katiedaviscrowder.com

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