In the Orthodox tradition, the church is the icon – the visual sign and symbol – of the Trinity.* Unity is
Consider the Trinity: we understand God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to be One, united in all respects.
Polytheistic beings (such as the gods of Greece and Rome) can and do disagree and have conflicts with each other. Not so God – God as one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a perfect unity, does not conflict, does not disagree. Reform theologian Karl Barth said it this way: “The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not names for different parts of God, but one name for God.”
And by extension, we the church are as God the Trinity: many and one at once. Recall Jesus’ prayer in John 17.22 – “that they may be one as we are one”. Who are the “they” of Jesus’ prayer? We are.
As God’s icon or sign of God’s own Trinity-self, we are:
1. Invited into peace with God – invited by Jesus, who gives us in the form of his very self, an introduction letter to God. Paul makes it clear that justification by faith is not so much a doctrine to be understood as the gift of wholeness to be received. Peace with God is a grace, a gift, we receive, not a prize we earn. Peace with God by the grace of God is the only solid ground, the only standing place, we have.
2. A looking forward people, looking into the very glory of God’s own self. Looking back – back to who or what we were before only freezes us in time and turns us into useless pillars of salt. We are to be, because we are, a forward looking people – looking forward and leaning into God’s own glory, which like the pillar of fire and column of smoke that led the Hebrew people out of Egypt and into the promised land, leads us into God’s own self, which is our promised land.
3. We are a poured forth people – just as Woman Wisdom, God’s Holy Spirit, was poured forth from before the beginning of time, through that same Spirit, God’s love is poured forth into our hearts that we may be daily poured forth into the world.
So church is the icon, the symbol, the sign, of God as Trinity – we many together as One are the sign to the world of the one-ness of the Loving God. We’re the peace sign to a world at war with itself. We’re the grace note to a world of discord. We’re the solid ground, the standing place in a world off kilter. We’re the glory of God shining into the darkness. We’re the patient ones in the face of suffering, showing that there is nothing to fear. We are the love of God poured forth into the heart of a world stretched beyond its patience, near if not beyond its own breaking point. We are the heart of God laid bare to the world.
That, friends, is who we are. . . blessed Trinity.
See The Church - an Icon of the Holy Trinity