The Three Colors Of God
In speaking of the Holy Trinity, rather than knowing about God and the enigma of three-in-one, we can focus on knowing God personally, and that can be very interesting and help our faith to grow.
Before the coming of Jesus, God’s people came to know that “The Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.” This was the faith and the pride of Israel as God’s covenant people, and it still is the faith and pride of the Israelis as we know them today. The God of the Israelites, the God of Jesus is “the only Lord, whom we must love with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.” But Jesus gave us new insight into God, and that is what divides us off from the Jewish people.
No comparison is perfect, but I like to see Jesus like a prism. When you shine white light through a prism, it comes out in various colors on the other side. The Jesus we know from the gospels is like a prism allowing us to see that the white light which is God, when shown to us through the prism of Jesus, appears to us in three colors, called Father, Son, and Spirit. That is my own clumsy way of seeing the three manifestations of the one God.
We learn from Jesus to call God “Abba, Father.” That’s the way he prayed. “Father, I thank you for revealing this to little ones.” “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But your will be done.” “Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.” And “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” That’s the way he prayed and he taught us to do the same, saying “Our Father, who art in heaven...” He also gave us the parable of the father of the prodigal son welcoming back his stray son, to show us how the Father is very merciful and told us to “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” That is the first color of God that we see from the prism of Jesus: God as Father.
The Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews tell us that the Word of God, spoken over and over again through the prophets and psalms, became visible as man in Jesus. Paul tells is that the Word of God “emptied himself” to take on the nature of man, to be with us as one of us, to live with us, to die for us, and to rise again to give us his life. So Jesus shines in this world as the Word of God. This is another color of God shining out from the prism.
But the third color of God is probably the one we should know best, because it is the Spirit of God dwelling within us. We learn, most of us as children, to make the Sign of the Cross: Father, Son, and Spirit. We name the Spirit last, but the Spirit really comes first for us, because we couldn’t even know about the Sign of the Cross, much less make it, if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit inside us accepting that teaching from our parents or from those who have led us to the faith. “No one can call Jesus Lord except through the Spirit” within us prompting us to do so. Or as St Paul says, “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a child of God. The spirit you received is the spirit of children making us cry out ‘Abba, Father!’” The Spirit enables us to pray with Jesus in his very words: “Father, into your hands I surrender all that I am.” This is why St Paul says, “Do you not know that you are temples of the Spirit who dwells in you?”
So there you have the tricolor of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, and we relate to each of these personally: to the Spirit dwelling in us, to the Son whom the Spirit tells us to call “Lord,” and to the Father whom the Son tells us to call “Father” because we are his children.
The Spirit is given to us in baptism, and we pray that through us and through our witness to Jesus, more and more people can come to know God as Father, accept Jesus as his Son, and receive the Spirit in inner and outward profession of faith.
Robert Chiesa SJ