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First Sunday after Pentecost. Trinity Sunday


The Anglican Community Ljubljana, Slovenia Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15 God's love has been poured into our hearts... Some fifty years ago, I traveled to Europe for the very first time. I was a callow and impressionable Roman Catholic seminarian with a newly-minted bachelor’s degree in literature and philosophy from the Jesuit Saint Louis University, and I was going to Germany to continue my theological education at the Universities of Würzburg and Munich. I had rarely flown before, so I was happy to know that a priest acquaintance of mine, Father Wayne, would be traveling with me on the long flight from New York City via Iceland to Luxembourg, the cheap-flight route and destination-of-choice back then. Father Wayne was finishing up his doctorate in theology at the University of Munich, so as we were taxiing toward the runway, I turned to him and said, “So, tell me, Wayne... What is your doctoral thesis about?” Well, eight hours later as we were finally landing at the tiny airport in Luxumbourg, I felt I had come to know much more about the theology of medieval saint and scholar, Bonaventure, than I had ever imagined I would want to know. I think of Wayne every summer by the way since the Church celebrates the festival day of Saint Bonaventure on July fifteenth. As I learned from Wayne, much of Bonaventure’s rather large theological corpus deals with the issue of God’s relationship to all of creation – a topic still very much of interest scholars and lay- people alike even today. In other words, who or what is God, and where does everything come from...? And does my existence and that of the universe have any meaning? But back to that flight. “The key is fontal plenitude,” Wayne explained as we left the ground. I thought for a moment. I was pretty sure I had never heard of fontal plenitude but nodded knowingly, hoping to hide my youthful ignorance. Wayne continued, “From the Latin, fons plenitutinis, of course.” After a moment or two adjusting his seatbelt, he picked up the thread. “It goes straight back to Athanasius and Nicaea,” he clarified, “and to Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists as well.” Meanwhile, I glanced nervously out the window as New York City disappeared beneath our feet. Wayne was warming to the subject as we reached cruising altitude, and I somehow felt trapped. Still, the topic was intriguing to a wanna-be scholar and preacher such as myself. So, I listened intently.

“God is the font or source of everything,” Wayne was just explaining as stewardesses – they were all stewardesses back then – interrupted our musings with meal trays. Wayne then continued while we unwrapped our food and began to eat. “That is what fontal plenitude means,” he said. “Everything comes from God because in God there is no limit or boundary. Our very being comes from God. So, understood in a certain sense, God is even beyond being itself.” Wayne turned toward me earnestly, “Properly speaking, God does not exist as we do. God simply is. God, well, ises” I tried to let that sink in. “But as we know from Scripture,” Wayne added, “God is also love. And as love, God reaches out to encompass the other. That is after all the ultimate nature of love -- to embrace the other. And where there is no other to begin with, God -- as Love -- creates other in order to embrace and encompass it and love it.” He paused and took a bite of chicken from the plastic tray. “It is very much like the emanation philosophies of Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists,” he said matter-of-factly between bites. I wracked my brain and tried to remember what I had learned about Plotinus in my introductory philosophy courses, but nothing came to me. I tried to think of something intelligent to say. “But what does that have to do with God’s relationship to us today?” I finally asked since it all sounded so ethereal. Wayne swallowed. “Hmmm... Good question. Well, God is creator and has always existed of course. But in the very act of that existence, God also, by the nature of being love, brings forth – begets is the word Scripture uses -- the Word through which all things that are come into being. The Word is God’s way of loving or encompassing everything that is, including us. To put it in Trinitarian terms, as Father loves Son, so all creation comes to be in and through our Lord.” My head was spinning – and not from turbulence. Wayne again paused and took a sip of wine. “According to Bonaventure -- who follows Plotinus on this by the way -- everything must also eventually return to God, thus closing the loop or emanation, as it is called. Eventually, everything goes back to its creator whence it came in the first place. And that is the work of the Spirit.” Cool, I thought. Well, before I knew it, Wayne and I were tightening our seat belts and putting our tray tables in the full upright and locked position for the landing in Luxembourg. He was making final notes on his dissertation as we pulled up to the gate. No laptops back then, I am afraid. We parted company; he, for the dissertation defense in Munich; I, for nearly three years of theological education in Germany. Father Wayne went on to become professor of theology at Saint Louis University, my old alma mater. Sadly, I long ago lost contact with him. Wayne was right of course. God is love. And without Love, there is nothing. It all boils down to that. Love is what brings us into this world, love is what brings us together this lovely day in Ljubljana; love is what brought Taylor and Stuart and Evelyn to us; and love is what calls them on their way to embrace new opportunities ahead and the people they shall encounter along the way. God is after all love. Or as Father Wayne would surely remind us, “Fontal plenitude, that is the key.” Amen.

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