A scientist told me yesterday that the nucleus in an atom has a proton and a neutron, and that each of these has three quarks. The most important bit is that quarks come in threes. And they cannot exist alone.
I found myself reflecting on ‘one’, ‘three’, and another weird thing – that ‘1+1=3’.
One on its own is a very lonely thing. So many of us have experienced with first hand intensity this past year just how lonely and painful it is to be one person alone. We are simply not created to be solitary. A few people have the ability and desire to be hermits – but even they will encounter other living creatures and have relationships of various kinds with them. Solitary confinement is punishing.
Two is good – but it can become stifling. The two need a third to love and to wonder at together. To say ‘look!’, and to enjoy, and to celebrate.
And strangely, when two are together, a third is almost always formed, which is why 1+1=3. When two come together, something else and other than themselves is formed and created. It may be a relationship, it may be a project or endeavour. And this 1+1=3 is the mathematics at the heart of families.
When we have three together, there is balance. A three legged stool is solid. A three leafed clover has symmetry. A flower arrangement tends to go in threes (or fives), rather than just two. Three creates a dynamic flow of relationship into which others and more can be invited.
And thus we have the eternal dance of love and life that is the Trinity. God is One, but God is also love and life. And Love cannot exist without a Beloved, and Another to share in that act of loving. And Life is not alive, unless it can create and become and be – which it cannot do in isolation. Even this piece of writing requires three – the author, the writing itself, and the reader – if it is to have meaning and possibility.
Three is indeed at the heart of Life and the Universe – and to find that it is so, even at the subatomic level of quarks, is just wonderful. It literally fills me with wonder at the beauty and complexity and utter simplicity of Life and all that exists.
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. Normally this is the bane of preachers. To try and explain that God is One and God is Three can feel like a theological pretzel! But actually, when we take it away from the theory and observe it in action in the world around us, we find it is in fact much simpler than we had made it. And in the same way, God is Love and Life and Being. And we are invited into relationship with Him. At heart, faith is in fact that simple.
Thanks be to God!