“Three in one, and one in three” is a common phrase used to describe the concept of the Holy Trinity. “How can such a thing be?” the literal mind asks, but the mystical heart is capable of embracing such intangible ideas. Our language will always be simultaneously sufficient and insufficient to describe the holy. Things outside our understanding will always exist beyond our grasp.
Many strive to make sense of the mystery of Trinity. Water in three forms gives us an image of steam rolling from a kettle of boiling water, ice piled up after a hailstorm and liquid pouring from a vessel. All are water, yet all are different. St. Patrick of Ireland took up the shamrock as an image for the Trinity: three leaves, one plant. More simplistically, concepts of age and ability: the Mother, Maiden and Crone, or the Child, Father and Sage, or even the Body, Mind and Spirit. Creator, Christ and Spirit — these three, like faith, hope and love, abide.
The Communion of Three has never felt awkward to me. But then, I have not felt the need to debate and explain them the way the archaic church councils did centuries ago. I am not threatened by mysteries. I am comforted by them. Andrei Rublev’s 15th-century icon of the Trinity (Troitsa) makes sense to my spirit: three equal persons looking toward one another with mutual love, respect, harmony and peace.
Mutual love, respect, honor and service. These are notions our present age seems to rebel against. Our culture increasingly values models of so-called self-care: massages, mani-pedis, mental health days or the insistence to “treat yourself.” Our abundance abounds. So does our suffering.
All of the self-care luxuries our economy promotes fail to answer our pain. Pour out oils, imbibe in drink, fill yourself with sumptuous foods, and I bet that most of us still find an ache that stretches our ability to describe. Our aches are not something external — hands, feet, muscles or nails. It is something internal and existential. We ache because we need greater connection.
Connection to community — think Job’s friends, of whom I recently wrote — can help us shoulder the pain, loneliness and brokenness we encounter. Mutuality is where it’s at. Relationship is the place of healing and wholeness. Joining together in laughter, the breaking of bread, the sharing of a cup of cool water. Rather than self-care, “community care” is a model of transformation.
Community care, as I understand it, is the idea that people readily commit to take their capacities to be present to one another in various ways. Do you need a strong back and set of arms to move that piano? I bet a friend of mine who works at a college can find some able, young folks who would help in exchange for a home-cooked meal!
When our youngest was on the way, we needed help renovating an unfinished space in our home. Our church family of helpers came to our aid. At the same time that my pregnant body carried life within it, my spouse was birthing a business. Again, our church community came to our aid in many ways. I have often told him it was a miracle of many months that he labored to bring to reality. The creative life he delivered came out of a community of friends and family.
Community care may be one or two, or a handful, or hundreds of helpers. It’s much greater than any escape. Community care — another expression of the three-in-one mystery — is grace alive.