Author(s)Marc Lloyd
Date 27 March 2023

Almighty and eternal Father,

you have given us grace, by the confession of a true faith,

to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the unity;

keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities,

by the power of the Holy Spirit,

and in the name of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

On so-called Bible Sunday (the last Sunday after Trinity in Common Worship), I always feel that every Sunday ought to be a Bible Sunday. The same could be said about Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is not just for Trinity Sunday.

 

The Christian faith is Trinitarian through and through and all the way down. The tri-unity of God is fundamental to the true faith.

 

In this prayer we address the Father, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Son. Whilst we may pray to Father, Son, or Spirit (since all three persons are God), Christian prayer is classically Trinitarian: to the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit. We might compare Paul’s rich Trinitarian prayer and praise, for example, in the Letter to the Ephesians (1:3, 13, 17; 3:14-17). This latter passage is similar to our Collect. Paul asks the Father to strengthen us with power through his Spirit so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. We might take a moment to allow Paul’s prayer and our collect to expand our vision to pray such big prayers.

 

If the doctrine of the Trinity is sometimes mind-stretching, this collect is helpful in reminding us that our acknowledgement of “the glory of the eternal Trinity” is as a result of grace given us. We receive God’s underserved love “by the confession of a true faith” — through faith — but it remains grace, unmerited and freely given. It is not achieved as a reward for correct theology, important as right thinking about God is. We give thanks for the grace of revelation, for the grace to receive God’s revelation aright, and we pray that by God’s grace we may be “kept steadfast in our faith”. We know that left to ourselves we would be prone to wander and fall. Our trinitarian faith comes not from our own cleverness or goodness, but from the Triune God himself. We trust God for our faith from first to last.

 

Christian truth must be explained and defended, but the collect makes these grandest themes of Christian theology a matter for prayer and worship. Orthodoxy rightly leads to doxology. It would do our souls good to marvel afresh at “the glory of the eternal Trinity”.

 

When the collect says that we “worship the unity”, this might sound as if we adore an abstract principle, but the collect surely means to remind us that we worship the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Athanasian Creed says: “the Catholick [Universal] Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity”.

 

It is worth noticing the repetition in our collect. The “eternal Father” and the “eternal Trinity”; “the power of the divine majesty” and “the power of the Holy Spirit”. Article I of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion tells us that in the unity of the Godhead the three persons are of one power and eternity. The eternal Father is the eternal God. The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God.

 

One of the maxims of Trinitarian theology is the doctrine of Inseparable Operation, that the external works of the Trinity are undivided. All three persons of the Trinity always work together in perfect unity. If we feel weak and vulnerable as we look to the Holy Spirit knowing that we need him to “defend us from all adversities”, it should be a comfort that the eternal and almighty power of the Holy Spirit at work in us is the one eternal and almighty power of Father, Son, and Spirit, of the glorious and eternal trinity. Whatever we face today, our triune God is a sure defence.

 

So pray this with me:

 

Almighty and eternal Father,

you have given us grace, by the confession of a true faith,

to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the unity;

keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities,

by the power of the Holy Spirit,

and in the name of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.