17 May 2008

The Holy Trinity

George Herbert, the 17th century Anglican priest, is amongst my favorite poets. This poem, short though it is, is packed with the symbolic number “three.” Read it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Trinitie Sunday.

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
For I confesse my heavie score,
And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.

First of all, notice that each stanza is three lines long, and each is in triple rhyme. The first stanza is a type of invocation, with the first line referring to the Father, the second line to the Son, and the third line to the Holy Spirit.

The second stanza is a confession. The first line refers to sins committed in the past, the second line to the present act of confessing, and the third line to the firm intention not to sin in the future.

The third stanza is an expression of expectation, and each line refers to three things. Line one speaks of heart, mouth and hands being enriched. The second line outlines that which will do the enriching; faith, hope and charity. The third line expresses a desire to run, rise and rest with God.

This is a marvelous little poem, and it gives a wonderful glimpse into our Trinitarian faith.

Photo: from the reredos of the Lady Chapel in St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Providence, Rhode Island.