Note: This year, Trinity Sunday, being the Sunday after the Day of Pentecost, which is fifty days after Easter Day, falls on May 27, 2018
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow mee, and bend
Your force to breake, blow, burn, and make mee new.
I, like an usurpt town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearley I love you, and would be lov’d faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie;
Divorce mee, untie or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I,
Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish mee.
Holy Sonnet XIV: Batter my heart, three-person’d God (c. 1617), John Donne (1572-1631)
As I read and re-read and re-read Donne’s ode to the Trinity, I am o’erwhelmed by a paradox. (I define paradox as that which, on first glance, makes little, no sense, thus, is nonsense, but which, at its heart, embraces, embodies truth).
At first glance, Donne yearns to give himself wholly to God:
Batter my heart three-person’d God…
overthrow mee, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make mee new…
and, given his repetitive use of (and, thus, his stress on) the word “mee”, he also yearns to experience, to know that he, once surrendered to God (and his language of this surrender is varied and visceral as he wills to be imprisoned, enthralled, aye, ravished by God), will be and remain himself and not someone, something else.
How can this be? How can Donne or anyone surrender to God and remain her/himself?
Here, I perceive truth. God creates each of us in the imago Dei, the Divine Image. Suchwise, we, each and all, are alike. Yet each of us is created as an individual self (such is the wonderous variety of God’s imagination!), which none of us loses when surrendering to God.
Even more, when we surrender to God, God “make(s) (us) new”, which is another way of saying, we each are remade into the selves that God, from the dawn of time, ever intended we be and become.
What a thought!
Illustration: The Trinity, Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina (1475-1536). Note: The artist portrays the red-robed God the Father seated on the crest of the cosmos, bearing in his hands the crucified Jesus with the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, hovering o’er Jesus’ head.