When love comes to town the feast of st. james, holy trinity and the law of three…

The entire week looks like it will be filled with rain. Monday brought a torrential downpour to these gentle hills and the rest of the week will be enveloped in a series of thunderstorms. Interestingly, today is the Feast Day of St. James whom Jesus dubbed "one of the sons of thunder." My friend, Martha, posted a video clip on Facebook this morning of the celebration at the Cathedral of Santiago in Compostelo, Spain and a massive incensor covering the crowd with blessings. The spirituality of St. James is that of pilgrimage: often on the road again – and that rings true for me. Small wonder that when I opened a site I often use for morning prayer, Pray As You Go , the lesson from II Corinthians 4: 7-12 spoke to my heart:

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.


We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

I rather like the opening verse rendered in the King James Version where "clay jars" becomes "earthen vessels." They mean the same thing, of course, but the poetry of the later soars high above the literal translation. To my heart, earthen vessels evokes Christ’s incarnation as well as our human experience; the unity of earth, flesh and spirit; vulnerability within creation and so much more. And holding all these truths together as true simultaneously is crucial for living by faith in these trying times. Indeed, it may be the only way we can resist this regime and its afflictions without being crushed and driven to despair.

The single most liberating insight to come out of our collective work with the Law of Three was the realization that what appears to be the resisting or opposing force is never actually the problem to be over come. Second force – or the holy denying factor – is a legitimate and essential component in every new arising: no resistance, no new arising!

It is her contention that "our usual consciousness is skewed toward the binary, toward ‘either/or.’ It lacks both the sensitivity and the actual physical capacity to stay present to a third force, which requires an established ability to live beyond the opposites." This is the deep wisdom of the Holy Trinity. It is a way of living into the radical grace of God that brings order out of the chaos and hope from despair. And while I am still stumbling my way into the heart of Bourgeault’s rich and complex offering; it is clear that she not only re frame the Holy Trinity beyond binary limitations, but wants us to know that God offers creation a "new orientation to problem solving."

The first all-important implication to be drawn from this model is that all three forces (summarized as affirming, denying and reconciling) are equally important participants in the unfolding of a new arising. (The force we call) denying – second force – is never an obstacle to be overcome but always a legitimate and essential component of (God’s) new manifestation. In and of itself this realization brings a radically new orientation to problem solving. The "enemy" is never the enemy, but a necessary part of the givens in any situation, and solutions will never work that have as their goal the elimination of the second force… resistance (must always) be factored in: not simply to cover one’s bases, but because it is an indispensable ingredient in forward motion.

In other words, it is God’s desire that a new heaven and new earth arise from within the wounds that have been built into creation since before the beginning. The holy way, therefore, is not to conquer and subjugate, but rather to engage, suffer, grieve, love and wait in peace until a new and unimagined blessing arises from within the tumult. Walter Brueggemann suggests that this is the message distilled from ancient Israel’s exilic prophets. First, they warn and describe what life out of sacred balance looks like: injustice, indifference, inequality. Their cries clearly give shape and form to the the consequences of ignoring grace. Second, they mourn, asking all who have entered the season of grief to feel it fully rather than deny its pain. And third the prophets counsel patience and silence so that as God’s new way begins to arise in the human imagination, God’s people will have the emptiness to fully receive and embody the revealed way of blessing. Perhaps the opening story of creation in the Bible, born during ancient Israel‘s exile, is a poetic paradigm for living into the rhythm of life, death and resurrection: out of the chaos and darkness there will emerge a new order and light from within God’s love.

Bourgeault states that the law of three is neither inhibited by nor limited to conflict. The way of the Lord is not addicted to drama: "it does no good whatsoever simply to align oneself with one of the two (obvious) opposing forces in an attempt to overcome the other; a solution (that is holy) will appear only when the third force enters."The way of God is that of healing and hope, life from within death, and integrity strengthened by trust beyond our broken earthen vessels. Binary solutions don’t last and never bring new life to birth.

I’m going to keep reading – and sitting with the new take on the Holy Trinity – as summer unfolds in the Berkshires. Bourgeault, who works with Richard Rohr, is on to something and I need to grasp it more thoroughly. At my core it already resonates with today’s words from St. Paul. This is what it means to have a treasure in earthen vessels: it shows us how to live with affliction in every way without being crushed. We can embrace being perplexed without giving in to despair, knowing that even while we are persecuted and struck down, we have not been forsaken or destroyed.