Karl Rahner, in his theology of the Trinity, emphasized an axiom that is directly related to his understanding of revelation as the self-revelation of God: the economic Trinity (God in God’s salutogenic work) is the immanent Trinity (God as God is). We do not know God as God is, except in our relationships to God, and God reveals God self in these relationship as Trinity, as the creative community of three in one and one in three. Then the issue is: how is God present as Trinity in our world? Apart from the Trinity as it unfolds itself christologically, as God presenting God self as the challenging and promising Other amongst us, theologians have also always been looking to speak about the Trinity features of reality, often in the form of metaphors connected to human or ecclesial metaphors. One very convincing experiential witness to the immanent working of the Trinity, articulating loving relationships between human beings, is the Flemish 20th century mystic Egied Van Broeckhoven, a Jesuit worker priest, part of whose mystical diary notes were published (in Flemish) under the title “Diary of Friendship” (Dagboek van de vriendschap). In those notes we discover a catholic priest who experiences God the Tri-Une at work in his relationships with others, creating bonds of deep friendship, even when these friendships are not necessarily recognized as such revelation of the Trinity by the friends. Here we see the Trinity at work, concretely, ecclesialy, deepening the Church itself towards a body constituted in friendship.
About this dynamism I would want to reflect a little bit further, in a few steps, suggesting further theological avenues which might also interact fruitfully with insights of eco-feminist theologians as Ivone Gebara, as was suggested by several of my students today. I am not sure whether all my vocabulary is completely right in what follows; it represents a first attempt that I would like to see discussed and of which I am aware that it is still very tentative.
The mystery of three in one and one in three, is about the emergence of a body, constituted out of the relationships between its constitutive parts and amounting to much more than the sum of these parts, on the one side, and on the other side by a unity that cannot be related to as one, but always as a plurality that cannot be split up in its parts. I tend to think of this dynamism with the help of a marriage: something new, exceeding the sum of the partners, but nevertheless reached at only through the individual partners, not taken separately but together. This provides us with some food for ecclesiological thoughts: the ecclesial communities we build, enacting in our limited ways the Trinity in the Christ event, are images of the Trinity, emerging as a body that is more than the sum of the parts and nevertheless only present in these parts taken together, not separately.
The Trinity pattern of these concrete ecclesial relationships (and one could, in fact, consider the whole of creation and creation as a whole, as a “church” with its inner ecclesial relationships) that bind us together as we recognize and acknowledge the loving God at work in our encounters as God is God self in the loving encounter of the Father, Son and Spirit, reveals the deep meaning of creation, and of the promised Reign of God, towards which we are already at work when we build our ecclesial communities and allow the Church to emerge as a body beyond our own capacities.
Our ecclesial efforts – our attempts to build church – are hampered by oour own difficulties, pitfalls and shortcomings in our relationships, that we find so difficult to pattern on the Trinity features. This requires honest and sometimes painful discernment, of which we are only capable together as precisely even in our individual discernments about our motives, fears, interests, jealousies, etc. we are tempted to close down on ourselves and isolate ourselves of our constitutive ecclesial relationships. We may well discover ourselves as obstructing, precisely in our falling short with regard to our ecclesial relationships of love and solidarity, the very work and activity of the Trinity in our world and amongst us. Closing down on ourselves is a pain for us and for others (as pain by its intensity may keep us focused only on ourselves, on our very pain): we are not capable to see that what is ours in fact belongs to all, as a gift to all. It reminds me of one of the reflections of Ignatius Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises: friendship means sharing what we have with our friends … that is, of course, because what we have does not define us, but belongs as a gift of God to all of us. The differences between us are, in a creative way out of which emerges the ecclesial community towards the Kingdom, God’s gift to us and God’s presence as the Tri-Une amongst us.