Monday Musings for Monday December 30, 2013
Volume III, 52/156
Reflections on Trinity and Christian Faith
By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*
The triadic nature of man plays a major role in our lives. We think in threes. The best writings almost always bring in three examples. Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Book of Hindus, speaks of rays of divinity enveloping us in groups of threes. In Quoran Majid, Surah 36,Ya-sin, Allah speaks of his bounties given to his people in bunches of three. In deutero- Canonical literature to the number three is assigned “holiness” and “purity”. Saint Paul spoke of three most important things in life: Faith, Hope, and Love. Plato wrote extensively, especially in his book of Phaedo, acknowledged as the closest writing about God and Christ by a pagan who lived long before Christ (427-347 BC), about the trinity of the soul, beauty, and perfection of form. The famed Zoroastrian commandments are the triad: “Good deed, Good word, and Good thought.” The Sermon on the Mount, an opus magnum of literature in any language, comes in sentences and pronouncements bunched in threes. The act of Love, the most important contribution of Christianity, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” requires the triad lover, the object, beloved, yourself, and/or your neighbour, and the act of love, all forcefully simulated in Christian theology as God, Son, and the Holy Spirit, three entities in a well integrated one, and not like three peas in a pod. Similarly, for humans to live a meaningful and altruistic life, they are endowed with the triad of intellect, memory, and will. In practical realm, there are a minimum of three legs to a tripod, and yes, the Holy Trinity, elaborately expressed in the Nicene Creed, 325 AD, speaks eloquently, elegantly, and definitively, of the nature of Trinity (see I used three adverbs to describe the Creed). So, the triadic and Trinitarian model is most relevant to our daily lives.
In our personal lives, the triadic phenomenon plays a major role and continues its importance: December 24, is the natal anniversary of my most beloved friend and wife, Emily. It is also the eve of the natal anniversary of the Lord. It coincides with our wedding day which we celebrate every month and call it “Montheversary”. A perfect and holy triad with its roots deeply fed by the joyful life giving running brook of the Holy Trinity.
A Few Words about Christianity: Commercial vs. Spiritual
Christmas as a religious observance and Christmas a secular event may co-exist, woe unto the cynics and to the intolerants. In ancient days of Egyptians, Persians and Romans, they celebrated the winter solstice called the Saturnalia which ran December 17 to 24. They closed offices and exchanged gifts. This is the time when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb, once more, in the sky. In its earliest days, Christianity did not celebrate the Nativity at all. Only two of the four Gospels even mention it. Instead, Easter was the most important day in the Christian year. In 325, when the Church fathers convened in Nicea, they focused on this issue and decided that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of the spring, making it a moveable feast. In 354, the year Saint Augustine of Hippo was born, Pope Liberius decided to add the Nativity to the Church calendar. So, it was he who decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on the fixed day of December 25. It was not until the 1800s that commerce got a hold of Christmas and resurrected the ancient gift giving of the Roman Saturnalia. In 1828, for example, the American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsetta, brought the plant poinsettia to the US. It has been associated with Christmas ever since. We have room to celebrate the secular feast of Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, on the 25th of December. To get us closer to God, eternity and spirituality, observe the mystical and holy phenomenon of the birth of Christ religiously both at the same time. It is unhealthy to engage in extremes of either or and to be cynical and intolerant of others. After all, Christmas and Saturnalia are to enhance love and understanding.
Reflections on the End of the Year:
To the thousands who read us and hundreds who write us from across the globe, we offer our thanks. We will, from time to time, publish some of the issue-centered letters that deepen our understanding and elevate the level of discourse. After all, that is the primary purpose and the etymological meaning of education, from Latin educata: to uplift and elevate knowledge and understanding…
Our faithful readers remember at the end of 2011, we wrote an essay about the King James Bible. In 2011, the Holy Book became 400 years old. There were quadricentennial observances of the birth of the Bible throughout Europe. In my view, the King James Bible translated and written by “Secretaries of God” (see my review of the book by the same title in Wake County Physician Magazine , Volume IX, July 2004) is a work that ennobles your soul. The accuracy, elegance, and lapidary Elizabethan English and the Shakespearian stylistic influence on the translators are unparalleled. We will write more on the subject in 2014.
*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.