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Perichoresis and Hospitality

Clearly the trinitarian concept of perichoresis is often misunderstood, misused, and misapplied. In line with what I’ve suggested before, I would argue that perichoresis as best understood as a quality that inheres in the inter-trinitarian relations and which we know on the basis of the shape of divine action in the world. In other words, perichoresis describes the dynamic of the the mutual interiority of the three divine persons which we discover in the course of the trinitarian economy of creation and revelation. When God acts in the world through Christ and the Spirit, all of our encounters with triune persons contain and reveal all three persons. Thus, when we are embraced by the Son we are embraced by the Father and Spirit who dwell in the Son. Likewise when we are adopted by the Spirit we are united with Christ in his relationship to the Father by virtue of the Spirit’s indwelling of the persons of the Father and Son.

What does this mean for our understanding of divine action? If God always acts as triune and if God’s triune action manifests the mutual indwelling that inheres in the being of God, what does that mean for how we understand the nature of divine action? I suggest that the dynamic of divine revelation in the economy of salvation suggests that God’s action, always qualified by the perichoretic relations of the Father, Son, and Spirit bears the supreme characteristic of hospitality. The Father, Son, and Spirit all exist in a state of pure actuality in which all three persons indwell one another, in effect making “room” within themselves for the other to such a degree that the Trinity can meaningfully be described as both one subject and three subjects. The earthly manifestation of the trinitarian perichoresis is seen most clearly in the radical deference and disposability of the divine persons towards one another. The Son does nothing on his own authority, but receives all things from the Father. The Father judges no one but has handed over all judgment to the Son. The Spirit does not speak of his own accord, but speaks all the is given to him to speak by the Father and Son. 

What we observe in the revelation of God as Trinity is a radical actuality of space-making in which the assertion of the distinct person is always withheld for the sake of manifesting the reality of the others. This, I suggest is the earthly-historical mode of the divine perichoresis. Translated into the life of the world, the divine mutual indwelling of the Father, Son, and Spirit takes the form of of mutual deference, of hospitality. It is precisely into these spaces of deference and hospitality that we are inducted into our adoption by the Spirit into union with Christ. Our salvation involves nothing other than our thankful reception of divine hospitality. And the radical claim of trinitarian theology is that God’s divine act of hospitality towards us is identical with God’s own way of being God.

One Comment

  1. vassilip wrote:

    let me add St.Kyrill’s of Alexandria description:

    he says that the Father ‘προσαγει’ (=brings [forward]) and the Son ‘ζωοποιει’ (gives life) by the life power of the Spirit
    …”our salvation’s work is a work of the whole Holy Trinity… and all goodness in us comes from the whole Holy Trinty, and everything in all things is God the Father [who is being found] fully by the Son in Spirit.”

    Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 1:14 am | Permalink

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