A text precious to the Jews, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is One,” is also precious to us. God is One, with an intensity that cannot be fathomed by us complex creatures.
The heart of the Christian faith is a further precious truth: there are relationships “within” this One God, relationships between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Relationships we are invited into!
The names “Father”, “Son” and “Holy Spirit” may remind us of pictures of the Holy Trinity that show “two men and a bird”. We cannot do without pictures, including mental ones. But we need to know they are pictures, that no one of them can show everything, and that none of our pictures can capture God’s mystery.
Human parents have parents of their own; we all have childhood in common, most of us have parenthood in common. God the Father is no one’s child; his Son is not a parent. Precisely as Father and precisely as Son, they do not have any thing in common. Precisely as God, they have the one indivisible Divine Being “in common”.
In terms of “character”, a human parent and child resemble each other imperfectly. Jesus is God’s Son as the Father’s perfect expression. What he does and suffers as man shows us the one who sent him. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
St. Paul speaks of Jesus as the Image of God the Father; the Letter to the Hebrews pictures him as the Father’s “impress” – rather as my face is the exact expression of my head, closer to it than a statue or a mirror-image could be.
St. John calls Jesus the Word of God, who became flesh. A human friend has some idea of herself and her plans; she expresses herself to herself by a kind of word in her heart. When she expresses herself to yourself, she speaks this “word” aloud. We can picture God the Father having a perfect idea of himself and his plans. As our Friend, God the Father wants to share himself and his plans with us. So he speaks his eternal Word into our world; this is Jesus, the Son of God who became the Son of Mary.
Today’s Old Testament reading describes Lady Wisdom, whom God possessed from eternity (“possessed” is a better translation than “created”). She is at God’s side as a “master craftsman” (the Hebrew could also mean “beloved child”). So we picture Jesus as God’s Wisdom: the Father is like an artist who plans beforehand whom he will craft, then puts his wisdom into action. Jesus took on the human nature he had crafted, and by his Resurrection from the dead “put the finishing touches” to this masterpiece.
Your human friend speaks to you out of love, to express love, to invite love. So we picture God the Father having an eternal Love, the Holy Spirit or “Divine Impulse”. In that Spirit he loves his Son, and us, eternally. Out of that Love he speaks his Word to us; Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit and ministers in the Spirit’s power. He dies as the supreme expression of the Father’s love and loyalty, so through his Sacrifice the Holy Spirit is given us – to create a return of love and loyalty. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Precisely as God, the Spirit possesses the one indivisible Divine Being that Father and Son possess. He is neither parent nor child: precisely as Spirit, he has no thing in common with Father and Son. Father, Son and Spirit are perfectly One, and indescribably distinct. Each is divine in exactly the same way; each is personal in an unimaginably different way.
So the Spirit does not come to us as a further word. Instead, he comes:
Like the wind, that is, the air that keeps us alive all the time, and now and then gives us a push.
As the Living Water that refreshes us.
As the Anointing and the Fire that make us radiant.
As the Dove that brings peace, and as the Paraclete, the Friend to stand by us.
As the Spirit of Truth (truth in the sense of loyalty) who enlarges our hearts to welcome Jesus, the Father’s one Word.
As the Love who makes us one, and in whom we give every honour and glory to God the Father, through, and with, and in Christ, now and for ever.