In the 5th century, St Patrick converted pagans to Christianity by describing the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as three persons in one God by showing them a three-leaved clover (a Shamrock) with one stalk.
This clearly worked well as St Patrick is famous for his missionary work in Ireland and became known as the Apostle of Ireland.
Perhaps the clover leaf appealed to the early Irish Christians because the idea of threes or trios fascinated them. Birth, life, and death; Past, present, and future; Earth, sea, and sky. Everything important seemed to come in threes and was interconnected in a continuous, never-ending cycle.
Whatever their thinking was, over the centuries, the Irish Christians took this three-cornered idea further. From what was initially developed as a pagan symbol representing the circle of life, they developed the Celtic or Trinity knot, an ‘endless knot’, with no clear start or end representing the three persons of the Trinity.
Today Christians from all over the world use it as a symbol of God’s endless love in the form of the three persons of the Holy Trinity; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to his disciples; “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you”.
Reflection on the Holy Trinity:
Like many of God’s truths, the Holy Trinity (also known as the Godhead) is a mystery beyond human ability to fully comprehend. However, the Trinity is a beautiful celestial reality at the heart of God’s being.
Christians believe in a gracious and loving God revealed to us as one God that exists as three distinct persons. We experience God in a Trinity; God as the creator, Jesus as our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit to empower, strengthen and enlighten us.
St Paul put it like this ‘to know (or experience) the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:19). Meaning to experience the Trinity of God is something felt deep within the soul and transcends the daily calculations and rationalisations of the human mind.
This most profound mystery of eternity, the Trinity, is a communion of persons united in mutual self-giving and interacting with each other in the purest expression of love. The early Church came to understand that the mutual self-giving of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is so completely expressive of their persons that it is itself a person, God, the very essence of love.
No metaphor or explanation available to us today can properly capture all that is the mystery of the Holy Trinity and God. Nevertheless, over time people have come up with various analogies. St Patrick famously used the Cloverleaf with its three sections. Others have used water in three states; ice, steam, and wet. Or the three elements of an egg; shell, yolk, and white. But I like the Celtic knot analogy best.
If you look closely at the image of the Celtic knot above, you can trace three yellow ovals, each representing a person of the Holy Trinity. Then you will notice that there are not three different ovals at all; it is one never-ending pattern that represents God’s, everlasting love.
I see the person we refer to as God in the centre triangle, radiating with the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells within those with faith in Jesus and that they are surrounded by God’s eternal and never-ending love. The Christian’s role is to replicate this communion and circle of love within our families, churches, communities, and entire lives.
God’s mysteries can be difficult to comprehend, but we can all experience, through faith in Christ, the wonder of the Holy Trinity.
In the YouTube link below, Chris Tomlin singing How Great Is Our God, expresses his faith in Jesus and the Trinity eloquently – I hope you enjoy it, and it provides additional food for thought.