Trinity Sunday, Year C
June 12, 2022
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
This August will make five years since I arrived at St. Mary’s. As you can imagine, I’m often called upon to give tours of this beautiful space, and each time I do, I discover something new – something fresh – some hidden gem waiting to be rediscovered. It is an understatement to say that the tours I give today are completely different than those of five years ago. Yes, the focus is still on the amazing windows and swooping arches – the breathtaking high altar under which is buried our former rector Fr. Henry David Jardine, but I generally start tours now with an invitation to be on the lookout throughout the tour for a symbol that is hidden in plain sight all over this church: the fleur-de-lys.
Despite the deceptive name in French which means “flower of the lily,” this is a symbol of the three petals of an iris. It has a long history within heraldry, most famously as the emblem of the kings of France, and thus in our own day, all things French. Going back to 14th century France, the three petals of the iris are said to represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And the band on the bottom that binds them together symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The tradition says that without Mary, you cannot understand the Trinity since it was she who bore the Son.
And that is where I want to explore the Holy Trinity with you today. Today’s feast is the only feast in the church year dedicated to a doctrine, rather than a saint or an event in Jesus’s life. And being a complex doctrine that defies our ability to comprehend, the rector often asks a seminarian or associate priest or deacon to preach, mainly for the thrill of chiding him or her for preaching heresy. As I learned this practice on the other side when I was a seminarian, it’s an ecclesiastical hazing ritual I’ve played on several including Fr. Sean and David Wilcox but, decided that this year, I’d take one for the team. But rather than subject myself to charges of heresy by using one of the well-known-yet-flawed analogies about the Trinity, I’d like to take a different approach and explore this relationship that Mary has with God the Holy Trinity.
Lumen gentium, one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council, puts it this way: Mary "is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
In the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announces that despite being a virgin, she will bear a Son whose kingdom shall know no end, and Mary responds in humble submission, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” So total – so complete is her submission to God’s will that it mirrors Christ’s own self-denial in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Mary invites us to follow her lead and surrender our whole selves to the will of the Father. The result of her submission to the Father is Mary’s union with the Spirit. Her “let it be with me according to your word” resulted in God taking flesh within her, meaning she received the Spirit into the deepest parts of her being. To be united to the Spirit we must follow the model of Mary and receive God into the inner most parts of ourselves. Her union with the Spirit leads to Mary’s cooperation with Jesus in His mission of freedom and redemption. In giving birth to Jesus, Mary is mystically participating in His mission, bringing Him to the world. This continues in the Visitation, where she brings the unborn Jesus to sanctify John the Baptist in the womb. Her relationship with Jesus as mother cooperating in His mission continues throughout His ministry, from wedding feast at Cana to the cross on that green hill outside the city wall. If we are to follow Mary to Jesus then we must take the same approach of sharing in His mission—even, or rather especially, if it brings us all the way to the cross. 
Perhaps today’s feast isn’t so much about either the doctrine of the Holy Trinity or the fear of missing the doctrinal mark than it is an invitation to relationship. In Mary’s relationship as daughter of the Father, spouse of the Holy Spirit, and mother of Christ, we too are invited into a deeper relationship with God by submitting to the Father, uniting with the Spirit, and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Trinity is about relationship, but statistically speaking, many of us have had a dysfunctional relationship with a parent, and especially with our fathers. It is natural to be turned off to the idea of God as Father if you have had a father who was distant and rarely present or who abused you in some way. In Mary, the Church gives us a mother who is decidedly not divine, but rather, as the very first disciple of her Son, does nothing but point us to God. In her complete submission to the Father, her spousal union with the Spirit, and her joining in spreading the Good News of her Son, we are given a model of discipleship – all in the person of a loving mother.
The three petals on that ancient fleur-de-lys emblem are bound together in love by the band that represents the Mother of God, the same Mother of God who continues to point us to the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Mary invites us today to enter more deeply into relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, modeling for us total submission, total union, total embrace of God’s mission. As we continue in the service with Holy Communion, we are invited to approach this great Sacrament, having submitted to the will of God the Father, to further our spiritual union with the Spirit by receiving Jesus into our bodies, not into the womb as Mary did, but as heavenly food, giving us the grace we need to go out into the world and share about God’s redeeming love.
As you come forward for communion, I invite you, as I do when I’m giving a tour of the church, to be on the lookout for the fleur-de-lys, and I’ll even give you a hint where you might see one. Look down just as you come up these stairs, and on the top of the Marian emblem on the floor, you’ll see the three petals bound together by a small band at the bottom. You’ll walk right on past that small band into the fullness of the flower and ultimately find yourself at the altar, the very gate of heaven and receive the fullness of the Most Holy Trinity into the very depths of your being. Mary invites us to do this not as individuals, but as those who have been grafted into her Son’s body the Church by baptism. We approach God together, as spiritual siblings of one family, and as part of this parish family under the patronage of Mary. As we leave this place nourished by this heavenly food, may we share God’s love with all who will listen, and invite them to join us in relationship with the one, holy, and undivided Trinity here at St. Mary’s Church. Amen.
 https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html, #53.
 Luke 1:38 (NRSV)
 Luke 22:42 (NRSV)
 I’m grateful to Stephen Beale’s sermon which is the source for much of this paragraph: https://catholicexchange.com/mary-shows-us-how-to-live-in-communion-with-the-trinity/.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!
To the Glory of God and in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Mary's is a parish of the Diocese of West Missouri, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion.