Today is Trinity Sunday, possibly my favorite day (theologically speaking) of the liturgical calendar. I have heard many jokes passed between my clergy friends about who gets stuck preaching on the day that the liturgy focuses on the seeming conundrum of the one-yet-triune and triune-yet-one God that is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. But, for me, the Trinity has always simply made sense, right down to the core of how I see the world. Some things are imprinted in our souls, the way that perhaps a genetic code imprints our bodies. The Trinity is that for me, and every symbol or song of the three-in-one and one-in-three has always had resonance. I was reminded of this soul knowledge that I have carried and held fast to over the years today during a homily preached by Bishop Susan Goff, who was presiding at our parish for the yearly visit and Confirmation. I enjoy listening to her sermons (the ones intended for the children and the ones intended for the adults). But, I knew today was going to be extra special when it began with the words of the Lorica of St. Patrick (St. Patrick’s Breastplate) and contained references to the celtic trinity knot. In her homily, she referenced one of my favorite Irish church stories of St. Patrick holding up a shamrock, and translating an understanding of God by showing the simple beauty of the Trinity in the nature that was all around, even in the triple leaves of that green clover.
So, all these Celtic stories on Trinity Sunday got me thinking today about the triquetra…the trinity knot…and the value of this symbol to my spiritual journey. Specifically, it made me remember the day that I decided to get my tattoo.
I think I set a precedent for myself when I turned 30, when I decided to add a piercing…a single emerald solitaire…to my left ear. I felt more complete with it than without it, and I am now sure that if it ever left my ear for more than a cleaning, it would feel like I had lost an appendage. So, as I approached my 40th birthday a few years back, I had a similar nudge. I wanted to mark my next decade with something that would be a part of me, always. As crazy as it sounded, I wanted a tattoo.
My spouse…and my daughter…thought I was crazy. But, I said something to one of my friends who shared a strong sentiment about getting her own symbolic tattoo as well. And so it was that we made a tattoo pact, set a date, and started interviewing tattoo artists. This alone was a hysterical adventure, because the two of us couldn’t have looked more out of place in our professional attire, meeting up outside tattoo joints around town with our little notebooks of information, as if we were interviewing job candidates. But, this was serious business. We finally settled on Drew, “Tattoo Artist and Philosopher” according to his business card. He came highly recommended, and he looked the right amount of rocker and geek to satisfy our credentials. What can go wrong with a tattoo artist and philosopher behind the needle??
But, then came the true challenge: selecting THE tattoo. I knew what a wanted: a triquetra knot. But, how ornate? How big? Black and white? Color? These rolled around my head until I could feel my head spinning and hear myself thinking: who have I become?? But, this really was important. This was going to be with me forever and mark a particular time in my life. So, I told him the symbol I wanted, and why.
I told Drew I wanted a celtic triple-knot, a triquetra, which to me represented the strength and unity of three-united-in-one. The triquetra…or Trinity Knot…can be thought of as the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit in Christianity. But, the Celtic triquetra also represents the three unions of the divine feminine: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. That symbolism is also deeply rooted in my ancestry, and in my spirituality. Finally, the symbol to me is also the triple-oneness of how I move through the world: the interweaving of body, mind, and spirit into the person who rises each day to greet this world and lives out a journey that tries, daily, to nurture all three facets of my personhood. This was a powerful symbol, and I wanted to wear it well.
Drew looked at me, and smoothed his pointy goatee. He nodded slowly and said nothing for a few minutes. Finally, my tattoo-philosopher friend spoke: OK.
Then, he gave me some practical advice: plan for it to be larger than you think you want it, and pick a color you love. I gave him the go-ahead to draw it out for me.
And so, a plan came together: Celtic knotwork, a triquetra knot woven into an infinity circle, and permission to use the back of my right shoulder like an open canvas. Size of a baseball, not a quarter. Full color, with the main one as forest green.
We showed up on the day of the big event, bringing along another friend for moral support. She did photo document the adventure, but regrettably those files seem to have vanished (which in retrospect is probably a good thing). Drew worked his magic on the canvas of my shoulder, and I sat there taking in the ink and the meaning. It was a good day, but better after I was finished and we could go out and have a drink to numb the throbbing a bit.
I love the art I wear as a part of my body. My Trinity Knot is a part of me, and I am in full awareness of it in the same way as I am of my emerald. In real ways, my spirituality is not an external God “out there” but instead, a very real embodiment of God in the world: in people, in nature, and in me. I wear that reminder viscerally now…a tangible response to a gentle stirring of spirit as I crossed into this decade, my soul possibly knowing before my mind or body were aware that this decade would be about embracing the fullness of my spirituality, of seeing God in the ordinary, of re-dedicating myself to the Divine Yes of showing up to my life and living into its fullness.
Trinity Sunday’s small point of light…