I recently wrote about the different models that Pope Francis offers to call us to work towards unity in the church by engaging those with whom we disagree. If effectively put into practice, Pope Francis’ exhortation allows us to step out of the echo chambers and embrace one another with the compassionate and merciful love that the heart of Christ reflects toward all men.
In addition to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we can look to the Holy Trinity, God’s community of love, as a model to emerge from the echo chambers.
However, for many Catholics, the Trinity is such an esoteric concept. As we make the sign of the cross and speak the names of the three persons of the Trinity, we often find a chasm between the theological notion of the Trinity and how the Trinitarian model applies in our daily lives.
Therefore, my goal is to share insights from Eastern Catholic Spirituality, which offers a treasure trove of resources on Trinitarian mysticism and theology, and relate these insights to how coming out of the echo chambers enables us to enter more fully into this community which echoes total and complete love. .
gift of self and ecstasy
Echo chambers keep us isolated, preventing us from emulating the self-giving action of the Trinity, and can cause us to treat those who do not share our beliefs as our enemies.
However, there is only one echo in the Trinity, that of the love which gives itself. We are called to receive and return this echo.
God the Father and God the Son are directed towards each other in an eternal act of self-giving, offering themselves fully to the other and making this self-giving reciprocal. The reciprocal gift of self between the Father and the Son is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, God “is an eternal interchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that interchange”.
In his book God’s community of love (New City Press), Jesuit Father George Maloney describes the Trinity as follows:
The great revelation that Jesus came to give us is to reveal to us that God is an ecstatic, intimate, loving community, an inflamed circle of love that knows no circumference, of a Father emptying himself in his Son through his Spirit of love. Such intimacy and such selflessness are rendered by the Son who gives himself to the Father by the same Spirit.
Linked to self-sacrifice is ecstasy, a notion promulgated by several of the Eastern Fathers including Gregory of Nyssa and Maxime the Confessor.
Word ecstasy comes from the Greek word ecstasy (ἔκστασις), which has a very different connotation than the English word. Ekstasis means “to stand outside oneself”. Maloney notes that the Trinity presents a position outside of self through intimate love and self-surrender and therefore models our call to stand outside of ourselves and offer ourselves to God and God’s people.
On the other hand, echo chambers prevent us from practicing ecstasy. They keep us locked up inside ourselves and prevent us from participating in Trinitarian love, a love that comes out of oneself. In addition, echo chambers instill in us fear of others, especially those who are different from us, and thus promote isolation.
Therefore, echo chambers are a hindrance both to our relationship with God and to our calling as Christians to love one another (John 15:12). They must be dismantled so that we can join God’s community of love.
Trinitarian love empties itself
In addition to ecstasy, the Trinity illustrates the emptying of self, or kenosis (κένωσις). Jesus demonstrates this by becoming human and dying on the cross (see Phil. 2:6-8). The kenosis of Christ manifests the economy of Trinitarian love, a gift of self that empties itself.
Maloney describes the self-emptying love of the Holy Spirit as the “gift that ‘goes'” from the Father to the Son, “experienced in the kenotic or self-emptying between two people.
The Trinity also calls us to selfless love for one another, including those with whom we disagree. Kenosis includes an abandonment of our positions and our ideas so that we can see the other and recognize him as a child of God, just as Pope Francis exhorts on the art of accompaniment in the apostolic exhortation of 2013. Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). In doing so, we recognize that our beliefs and ideas are not irrefutable idols. Moreover, we are better disposed to participate in true Trinity worship by emulating the economy of selfless love toward those who are our ideological enemies. This call to surrender requires the gift of humility and the grace of vulnerability.
Love that empties itself does not expect love in return. Just as humans reject the love the Trinity offers them, others will also reject our self-emptying love, especially those who disagree with us. The Trinitarian model of self-emptying love teaches us that what matters is not being right, but rather selflessly offering love to the other.
Circle: a symbol of unity
Andrei Rublev’s Icon The Trinity is inspired by the visitation of Abraham by three angels (Gen. 18:1-10), which is analogous to the three persons of the Trinity. In the icon, the Trinity is seated equidistant in a circular fashion at a table with a chalice bowl in the center. The circle denotes infinite connectivity and unity without distinct sides. The chalice bowl symbolizes communion and love, as divine persons experience an endless communion of love rooted in total unity.
Echo chambers, on the other hand, promote division and prevent an exchange of love. These exchanges are often vitriolic. Animosity and complacency, not loving communion, are central.
No one is more righteous than the Trinity, no “side” is greater than that of the Trinity. The Trinity manifests justice through communion. The only echo is mutual love.
If we reconfigure our social media and interpersonal relationships around a circular table instead of drawing battle lines, we can learn to respect differences and revere the dignity of the other person. Cultivating this habit can help us learn to see and love others as God does.
We must therefore emulate the pattern of the circle of the Trinity, promote unity and transmit love not only to those in our immediate “circle”. We must enlarge our immediate circle to grow more like the infinite trinitarian circle. Following Pope Francis’ call, pausing and engaging those in positions different from ours promotes a love of surrender and self-surrender that invites those with whom we disagree to join us in the circle of Trinitarian love.
I mentioned in the previous article that when I implemented Pope Francis’ call, someone who was once my ideological enemy online became my friend and brother. Moving away from echo chambers, which suffocate our union with the Trinity, offers a positive answer to Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper: that his disciples “may be all one. As you, Father, are in me and I in you, so may they also be in us” (John 17:21).
Thus, the measuring stick of our union with the Trinity is directly tied to our willingness to work for unity among those in the church who oppose our beliefs and whose beliefs we oppose. When we learn to let go of our attachments to our positions and welcome those with whom we disagree to sit with us at the table, whether literally or spiritually, we can more easily enter the unbroken circle of communion and lead others to this precious gift expressed in Rublev’s icon.
Uncreated divine energies
We can grow in Trinitarian fellowship and demonstrate it to those who oppose our beliefs (and whose beliefs we oppose) by accepting God’s gift of participating in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Eastern fathers used the term uncreated energies to express the action of the Trinity to communicate love to each of us as a gift of self. In other words, God communicates to us by offering uncreated divine energies.
Archbishop Joseph Raya explains that uncreated divine energies are not distinct or separate from God. On the contrary, they are in fact God’s self-giving and self-communication to us:
The uncreated energies of God are not “things” that exist apart from God, nor are they “gifts” of God; they are God himself in his action. They are the very God who is himself Uncreated.
When we open to receive the uncreated energies and allow God to fill us with divine love, that is, God gives us the divine nature, our eyes begin to see again – what we so longed for. narrowly in terms of our personal beliefs loses importance.
Sequentially, animosity toward those who oppose our beliefs loses its grip. Our hearts abandon the attachment to our ideas to be filled with the only thing that matters: to be loved by God and to love as God loves.
The uncreated energies of God change our trajectory from self-centeredness to self-emptying, the latter which leads not to emptiness but to the freedom to enter more fully and completely into the divine communion of love. God frees our hearts from the frigidity of polarization and, like a home, God’s love draws us closer to those with whom we have disagreed so that we can form a new community together by being in communion with the community of love. of God.
Through God’s gift of self to us, God can transform our binary and finite positions into a disposition of love that looks at those who think differently from us with curiosity, interest and openness. The uncreated energies of God can lead us to the freedom to accept that others who hold a seemingly opposite position may have something to teach us. They also lead us to not view them solely on the basis of their ideologies, but to see and value them holistically and comprehensively, just as God does.
Let us ask the Trinity for the grace to be delivered from the echo chambers, whose walls bind us in fear and limit our ability to receive God’s love and to communicate this divine love to others, especially those to whom we we oppose in thought, in word and/or in action. As obstacles to love of neighbor, echo chambers prevent us from growing in holiness and sharing the divine nature. On the contrary, God calls us to engage the other and to see the other as God sees them. Moreover, God invites us to receive and imitate the love of the Trinity which gives itself, empties itself, ecstasy and without sharing. We can grow in this activity by allowing the uncreated energies of God to transform us so that instead of echoing our own beliefs and opinions, we echo each of us with God’s merciful and saving love. By abandoning ourselves to this transformation, we rejoin the echo of the divine love of the Trinity.
Picture: Wikimedia Commons