"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, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the earth's kings." (Revelation 1.4-5a)✞
The phrase "seven spirits" may indicate "the sevenfold Spirit" or "the Holy Spirit." "The seven spirits" may also refer to the Revelation churches' seven leaders in Asia. Under the Holy Spirit's guidance, John of Patmos sends letters to these churches, situated on a curved crescent-shaped line in Turkey. Each one addresses not only their current conditions but also the future. He commends their strength and warns them of their failures. These directions and suggestions are appropriate for today's churches and also apply to our personal lives.✞
Like some Early Churches, Christians today can become loveless, immoral, or compromising in their faith. Our Lord clarifies how he feels about these faults. In this passage, God the Holy Trinity greets John of Patmos, "Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come." 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 and transfiguration. This threefold greeting has curious similarities to the "Celtic Trinity symbol" or "Triquetra" and also the "Trinity Knot." ✞
The Trinity symbol, which originally meant "triangle," existed from very early times as the "three hares." The three hares circular motif appears in some medieval Devon churches. Known as the "Tinners' Rabbits," it is carved as three hares or rabbits chasing each other in a circle, which is understood to be a Trinity symbol. Each of the "tinnes rabbits' ears" is shared by two rabbits so that only three ears appear. The Revelation 1.4 words, "who is, and who was, and who is to come." also remind us of Exodus 3.14-15 where, "God said to Moses, 'I am who I am' is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am sent me to you.'" "It 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 "I am" sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew "Lord." The 'I am' represents an old version of the Holy Trinity's three persons in God's name. ✞
Jesus Christ, as God's Son, is described as "the faithful witness." A witness in court relates what he has seen or heard. The faithful witness' testimony is reliable every time. Jesus Christ is also called "the firstborn from the dead." John of Patmos uses "prototokos," the Greek word for 'firstborn' referring to the birth order in a family, the first child born, and the heir who inherits. Jesus Christ is also called "the ruler of the earth's kings." Jesus governs and regulates all earthly kings and leaders, sometimes keeping them from doing evil or frustrating their plans, sometimes using them to serve his purposes. This concept is counter to the "divine right of kings," or "God's mandate" brought in by King Henry VIII when he declared himself supreme head of the Church of England at the Reformation in 1531. Divine right is a religious doctrine of political legitimacy in a monarchy and is often expressed in the phrase "by the Grace of God," attached to the reigning monarch's titles. Interestingly, my Admitting Certificate to the Office of Evangelist on 16th December 1975 was signed "Donald, by Divine Providence, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, and Primate of All England." Lord Coggan was a caring and godly gentleman. Revelation clearly states, however, "Jesus is the ruler of the earth's kings." Jesus has the last say!✞
The Celtic churchman Saint Patrick (385-461 AD) became famous for using the shamrock to explain the Trinity concept to Irish clan leaders and gave us a Holy Trinity blessing. Patrick held out his arm with a finger pointing straight ahead and then turned around three hundred and sixty degrees. This blessing acknowledged God's supreme control over all of life and of creation everywhere. Irish Celtic churchmen believed that this Holy Trinity blessing applied in every place, every way, and at all times. Interestingly, Saint Patrick's grave in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, also contains Saint Columba's and Saint Brigid's remains. They are in one tomb together, covered by a huge, heavy uncut stone. On an Irish sight-seeing holiday, my wife and I visited this especially holy graveyard. An enormous rock lies at the top of the hill in the "Holy and Undivided Trinity Cathedral Church" cemetery in Downpatrick. We were naturally curious as to why the large stone rested on their remains. It was necessary to prevent local people and visitors from taking gravesite soil to place on the sick and heal them!✞
On the other side of the world, Saint Catherine of Sienna (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 on the Holy Trinity,
"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 special 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's Blessing remain in our lives forever!✞