FAITH COMMENTARY

Listening, and hearing, the Holy Trinity

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From time to time, folks will ask me, “Do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit really speak to us?” And when I assure them that the Most Holy Trinity does, indeed, communicate with us, the next question is always some version of this: “Well, how do you hear the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”

Listening to the Most Holy Trinity is a skill, and, like any other skill, it can be learned. But there are two dimensions to this particular skill set: If you want to communicate with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the first thing you have to do is learn how to be quiet; the second thing you have to is learn the language of poetry.

Let’s start with the quiet. This is much harder than most people realize, because in order to even start getting quiet, you have to take out the earphones and turn off the radio and shut down the television. Once you are used to a little audible silence, then you have to start working on some mental silence: that means you have to put up your phone and lay aside the laptop and stop texting and posting on social media.

At that point, what you end up doing is listening to what’s going on in your heart. But the heart is a very, very noisy place. We’ve got old music and ancient resentments stored there; that’s where we keep all of our secrets and our insecurities; that’s where we go to relive past trauma and revisit good memories. So, all of that has to be cleaned out and straightened up.

But once we arrive at that point — and, for most of us, that’s going to be after many, many months of hard work and sustained effort — then we will actually know what it is to be quiet. And, when we are quiet — when we aren’t listening to other people or to our own back-talk — then we are ready to listen to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But when the Most Holy Trinity speaks to us, it will be in poetic language. Of course, based on most of the sermons that you hear or most of the books that you read, you would think that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit always speak to us in verbal bullet points that are arranged in a formal outline. However, if you read Holy Scripture on a regular basis, then you know that the language that the Most Holy Trinity uses the vast majority of the time is the language of poetry.

Just think about the Old Testament Prophets. Just think about the Book of Job or the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis or the final book of the Bible, The Book of Revelation. Go back and read the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St Matthew or the Canticles in St Luke’s Gospel. That’s all poetry, through and through. And the reason why folks do such a terrible job of interpreting most of that material is because they are trying to reduce it to verbal bullet points and arrange it in a formal outline.

So if the primary way in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speaks to us is through poetic language, then we need to become familiar with that language. That doesn’t mean we have to take classes in the use of metaphor and lyric and imagery, but it does mean that we’ve got to get a hand’s-on, practical feel for how all that works.

In Holy Orthodoxy, the way we do that is by reading through the Book of Psalms each week — and when I say that we read through the book, I mean we read it out loud. That’s what happens in the services that we have each weekday, and that’s a practice that goes all the way back to the earliest days of the Faith. Because right from the beginning, folks have understood that, if we want to speak the same language as the Most Holy Trinity then we’ve got to learn to speak poetically. And what better way to do that than with the very poems that are inspired by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

No doubt about it, getting to the point where we can hear the Most Holy Trinity is hard work. But the pay-off is simply indescribable; it just has to be experienced. Because the Father, Son and Spirit not only have important things to say to us, these are things that are only ever going to be said to us.

If you’d like some support in learning how to listen to the Most Holy Trinity, just send me a note or give me a call. I’d love to speak with you.

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