Three Cushions

26 May 2013               Trinity Sunday                                   Fr Adrian Ling

Three cushions

The medieval mystic Margery Kempe, was a most remarkable woman. She lived in Kings Lynn some six hundred years ago and was blessed with the most intense spiritual encounters. She dictated an account of her experiences in what might be the first autobiography in the English language. It is quite a story. She speaks in intimate terms with Christ; there is an easy flow of conversation between them, although Margery refers not to Christ speaking to her directly, but to ‘her spiritual understanding’.

There is a particularly fine passage which refers to her understanding of the Trinity, in which she sees that there are three cushions in her soul, one gold, on which sits God the Father, mighty and powerful, one red on which sits God the Son, who poured out his blood on the cross, and one white on which sits God the Holy Spirit, all pure and chaste. And the voice of Jesus says to her understanding that what she believes is true of the Father, that he is all–powerful and all merciful, is also true of the Son and the Holy Spirit. She believed the same of each. Each wills what the other wills, each knows what the other knows, each may do what the others may do. Three cushions in the soul, on which sit these equal persons of the Trinity: what a homely image. Jesus said, furthermore, that if she allowed him to rest in her soul on earth, so would she rest with him in heaven without end.

The Holy Trinity that we celebrate today is the fullness and completeness of God. He has no need of anything, he is all complete within himself; but of his generosity, which flows out from him, he gives of himself to us. God is love, but love needs an object. You cannot just love; you have to love someone or something. The Father loves the Son, who loves the Spirit, who loves the Father, in this one everlasting circle of love which is the Trinity. Margery Kempe, through the intensity of her faith, was able to admit that divine love into her soul, and from her soul too it overflowed.

That process of love is the heart of our faith, and hopefully we too are drawn into a cycle of love. Loving God helps us to love others and  loving others helps us to love God. Love is given and love is received.

However love is not everywhere and in everyone, as we have seen in Woolwich this week. There was no love in the killers of Lee Rigby.  They have wreaked havoc in the lives of that soldier’s family, taken away a father, a husband, a son in the most callous fashion. Hatred can breed hatred, for their act was clearly aimed at stirring up hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims in this country. This murder may give the excuse for others with hatred in their hearts to take revenge, not on the killers but on somebody else, simply because they are a Muslim. A desire for vengeance may be the automatic response, but the superior response is not to fall in with what these crazed men sought to create, but to rise above this savagery. This is not the way we live and behave in this still civilized country.

The family can draw little comfort from this tragedy, but there in the midst of it we saw an act of reckless love for that young man, from the woman who, ignoring all risk to her own safety, knelt beside his body. She wanted his family to know that somebody loved him and had been with him, that he was not alone. She did not know the young man, but she thought about his family and did it out of instinctive love.

This love, this natural desire to love, is part of our God-given nature. Evil may threaten to drive it out, but we must be on our guard not to let that happen. Hatred has no place in the Christian soul.

When I baptize a baby girl here later today, I will ask her parents and godparents if they renounce the deceit and corruption of evil; how we can be deceived and led astray from what is right to what is wrong. Jesus said that when he sent the spirit it would lead us into the truth. The spirit leads us to see what is really good and true and not the corrupted, perverted ugly image the world may make of the truth.

The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, revealed in the teaching of Jesus. May the Holy Trinity, which is the force of love, take up home in each of our souls. May there be peace in our souls that God the Holy Trinity may dwell within us, and we may rest with him.