"John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." (Revelation 1.4-5a)✞
"The seven spirits" may be translated as "the sevenfold Spirit," which is another way of saying, "the Holy Spirit." "The seven spirits" may also refer to the seven leaders of the Revelation churches in Asia. John of Patmos, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sends a letter to a group of "seven churches in the province of Asia," situated on a curved line like a crescent in what is Turkey today. His words to each of the churches address not only current conditions but also the future. He commends the seven churches for their strength and warns them about their failures. These directions and suggestions are also useful for our churches and us today and apply to our personal lives.✞
Christian churches and Christians themselves can become loveless, immoral, or compromising in their faith, just like some Early Churches. Our Lord makes it clear how he feels about these faults. In this Revelation passage, the Trinity greets John of Patmos with the words, "Grace and peace to you from him 'who is, and who was, and who is to come.'" This threefold name of God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come," has curious similarities to the "Celtic Trinity symbol" or "Triquetra" and also the "Trinity Knot." This symbol of the Trinity probably also existed from very early times as the "three hares." This circular motif appears in medieval churches in Devon, England. Known as the "Tinners' Rabbits," it is carved as three hares or rabbits chasing each other in a circle, which is presumed to be symbolic of the Trinity. Each of the ears is shared by two rabbits so that only three ears appear. The words in Revelation 1.4 "who is, and who was, and who is to come." remind us of Exodus 3.14-15, "God said to Moses, 'I am who I am.' This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am sent me to you.' God also says to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites, the Lord, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation." The phrase 'I am who I am' may also be translated as 'I will be what I will be.' The Hebrew for "Lord" sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for "I am" in verse 14. Here the 'I am' represents an old version of the three persons of the Trinity as a paraphrase of God's name. The specific phrase "Trinity," though not found in the Bible, is inferred in several places where the three persons of Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit, are linked together as at Jesus' baptism.✞
Jesus Christ, as the Son, has the title, "the faithful witness." A witness in court tells what he has seen or heard. A faithful witness is one whose testimony is reliable every time. Jesus Christ is also known as "the firstborn from the dead." The Greek word for 'firstborn' that John uses is "prototokos," which refers to birth order or the first child born, the preeminent son and heir. Jesus Christ is also called "the ruler of the kings of the earth." He governs and regulates what all earthly kings and leaders do, sometimes keeping them from doing evil or frustrating their plans, sometimes using them to serve his purposes.✞
This Holy Trinity blessing comes to those who love God and who serve Jesus Christ as Saint Catherine of Sienna did. The Holy Trinity is difficult to understand at the best of times. The math of the Trinity doesn't appear to work. Three doesn't seem to equal one any more than one equals three. But that is the trouble with trying to understand the triune God by mathematics. A formula will not suffice!✞
Celtic churchmen like Saint Patrick (385-461 AD), famous for his use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity to the leaders of the Irish clans, gives us a Holy Trinity blessing. Patrick begins his blessing by holding his arm straight out with a finger pointing straight ahead and then turning the whole way around, three hundred and sixty degrees. This blessing acknowledges God's supreme control over all of life and all of creation everywhere. Celtic churchmen in Ireland believe that this Holy Trinity blessing applies in every place, in every way, and at all times. Interestingly, Saint Patrick's grave with the remains of Saint Columba and Saint Brigid is in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. They are in one tomb together covered by a large, heavy stone. On a trip to Ireland, my wife and I visited this special holy place in the graveyard there. This enormous rock lies at the top of the hill in the cemetery of the Holy and Undivided Trinity Cathedral Church in Downpatrick. We were naturally curious as to why the heavy, large stone rested on their remains. The answer was that it was necessary to prevent the local people and others from carrying off soil from the graves to place on the sick and heal them!✞
Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380 AD) was a mystic and one of two Italian patron saints with Saint Francis of Assisi. She wrote a masterful poem and meditation explaining the Holy Trinity blessing,
"You, O eternal Trinity, are a deep sea,
Into which the more I enter, the more I find,
And the more I find, the more I seek.
The soul cannot be satiated in your abyss,
For she continually hungers after you,
The eternal Trinity,
Desiring to see you with the light of your light.
As my heart desires the springs of living water,
So my soul desires to leave the prison of this dark body and see you in truth."✞
Dr. Thomas Ken (1637-1711 AD), the former Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells, adds a further Holy Trinity blessing of his own.
"Blessing and honor, thanksgiving
and praise more than we can utter be unto thee,
O most adorable Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
by all angels, all men, all creatures
forever and ever, Amen and Amen.
To God, the Father, who first loved us,
and made us accepted in the Beloved.
To God, the Son who loved us,
and washed us from our sins in his blood.
To God, the Holy Ghost,
who sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts,
be all love and all glory for time and eternity. Amen."
May the Holy Spirit Blessing remain on our lives forever!✞