cause for pause mansfield weekly chapel


Week 7: Trinity

In times of restraint and physical distancing, when the body of Christ cannot meet in one place we are finding new ways to worship together. This self-led order for evening prayer with contributions from members across the Mansfield community, invites us to slow down as we approach the end of the day. You may conduct your worship in silence or you may use the videos included throughout.

You may wish to begin by lighting a candle in your home (if you are able) and use this time and space to reflect on the activity of the day that has just passed and commit it to God. We are then invited to contemplate the night of restoration that lies ahead, entrusting ourselves to God.

God of delight, your Wisdom sings your Word at the crossroads where humanity and divinity meet. Invite us into your joyful being where you know and are known in each beginning, in all sustenance, in every redemption, that we may manifest your unity in the diverse ministries you entrust to us, truly reflecting your triune majesty in the faith that acts, in the hope that does not disappoint, and in the love that endures. Amen.

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

God of majesty, amidst the grandeur of your creation you sought us out and by the coming of your Son you adorned us with glory and honour, giving us dominion over your works. Enable us to care for the earth that all creation may radiate the splendour of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


by Dr Andrew Gosler (Mansfield College)

What does it mean to be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? It sounds so simple, so natural, so familiar, yet to ask the question is to open oneself to the very mystery of existence, reality and truth. However ordinary our lives may seem, and whatever concerns we may face, there is a liberation to be found through the wonder of the ‘everyday miracle’ that is life, and through pondering the very mystery of existence. No analogy or metaphor for the Trinity satisfies our desire to understand it, since when we liken the Trinity to any thing, we diminish God to be a part of creation. But as God is both immanent and transcendent, I want to suggest that his nature gives the very context of being that we take for granted, and that his ‘triune’ presence can be discerned in our everyday experience of being, in the mystery of time, of nature and of relationship.

Consider time. For us, everything that exists, exists in the present moment. The past exists now for us only as memories and causes, and the future only as potential and possibilities. How might I define the present moment? Bound in time, I define the present as where the past meets the future. But the past does not exist, not now in the present, and neither does the future. So, if the present moment, where everything that exists, exists as the meeting point between two non-existent things, might we not recognise the mystery at the very heart of existence. We cannot look on the present moment, where we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), as indeed we cannot look on the face of God (Ex 33:20), for the moment we say now is the present, or now, it is gone in the cascade of time that pours the future into the past through the gap of the present moment.

St Athanasius wrote of the Trinity ‘We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energising reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved.’

Science teaches us that there is no absolute time, all is relative. Nevertheless, in the present moment, there is a still point, an absolute centre, of being, without doing, absolute peace, where we might find and know, and simply allow ourselves to be loved by, God. Shalom.

Consider nature. A scientific, objective, description of myself might note my size, mass, chemistry, construction and the workings of my phenome, epigenome and genome, of how I relate to my ecological and social context, my evolution and my microbiome. It might describe my colour as a wavelength of light. Yet, failing to capture my experience of being me, it is necessarily incomplete. A subjective description, capturing a sense of the poetry of life that is our experience of sound, smell and colour, while different, is also incomplete. Precious though they are, both the objectivity of science and the subjectivity of the arts are abstractions of reality. While both these abstractions contribute to my constructed sense of self, to the mask I might prefer others to see, this is not who I am, my true identity, which I believe is the life described by St Paul as hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Another three: objectivity, subjectivity, and identity. Martin Buber wrote ‘Subjectivism empties God of soul, objectivism makes him into an object – the latter is a false fixing down, the former a false setting free; both are diversions from the way of reality, both are attempts to replace reality.’

Consider relationship. Martin Buber’s important work I and Thou opens with an exploration of two relationships, what he calls the primary words: I-Thou, and I-It. He writes: ‘Primary words are spoken from the being. If Thou is said, the I of the combination I-Thou is said along with it. If It is said, the I of the combination I-It is said along with it. The primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being. The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being.’

Constrained by relativity, we might say the existence of anything has meaning only in relation to the other, and our perception of self has meaning only in relationship to our perception of the other. Here then, in the ground of all being that is the eternal dance of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the essential ground for empathy, for the call on us to recognise the other in ourselves, to call nothing and nobody unclean, and to nurture that love for all life that is reflected in the ministry of Christ: God with us. Amen.

A Moment for Reflection

The Watermill by Ronald Binge (1910-79)

Prayers of the People

Gathered into the mystery of the Trinity, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of God’s creation.

God of community, bring us together while we are apart. Strengthen us to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and in prayer and action, strive for peace and justice in all the earth. 

God of creation, sustain this world with your renewing care. Instil in us a deeper wonder for the created world you’ve called good, and a greater humility for our place within it. Kindle in us a creative and resilient spirit as we care for the earth and its creatures.

God of wisdom, we pray for the Mansfield community. Strengthen our students, fellows, staff and tutors as they work toward the end of a challenging academic year. May they know rest and replenishment in the summer weeks to come.

God of care, we are your beloved children. May we recognise your likeness in one another. Hold in your loving embrace all experiencing trauma, fear, uncertainty, and loss. Protect vulnerable children and adults from violence or neglect; provide what is needed for those lacking access to food, shelter, and other services.

God of healing, you accompany us in sickness and suffering. Bring relief to all afflicted with the coronavirus and all those isolated now more than ever, especially those in prison or care facilities. Strengthen caregivers, health workers, and all whose work ensures the safety and well-being of others. Console, heal, and nourish all in need this day.

God of connection, you call us to make your presence known. Accompany people of faith as they nurture relationships in new ways. Where the sin of racism fractures our relationships, bring repentance and reconciliation. Open our hearts for attentive listening so that our places of connection are filled with your Spirit.

Hear our cry, O God. Listen to our prayer.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, and we praise your power, majestic One-in Three. Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity, and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

A Final Moment of Music

Fugue in E flat BWV 552 (from the Clavier-übung Part III) composed in 1739 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) played by organist Hans-André Stamm on the Trost-Organ in Waltershausen, Germany.

A musical representation/depiction of the Trinity with its three sections, each representing the three persons of the Holy Trinity and all combining – three-in-one and One-in-three.

Thank you to all who contributed to this order of service for evening prayer. If you would like to contribute, please contact the Chaplain, Rev'd Sarah Farrow (chaplain@mansfield.ox.ac.uk). Next week's service, which will be our Leavers' Service, will be available from midday on Wednesday.

Other image credits: Andreĭ Rublev, The Holy Trinity; Kelly Latimore, Trinity.


Created with images by Andraz Lazic - "Feather on the lake. " • Alexandru Zdrobău - "Sunset watching on Sinaia mountain" • CHIRAG K - "untitled image" • Jeremy Bishop - "Finding my roots"