The Play of the Imaginary – Trinity Sunday


Well I think that this is as good a time as any to discuss the Imaginary or the Imagination and its role in spiritual play. After all it’s quite hard to get your head around the concept of the Trinity without using your imagination. Note here that what I am saying is that imagination and the use of play in the imaginary  is a key element in our spiritual development.

If you are a protestant, like me, you might have a difficult time with the idea of the imaginary in relation to God. After all, aren’t we treading into dangerous territories? Aren’t we straying from the written and codified, the real? Aren’t we straying into ‘soft meat’ for children here, the stuff of family sermons?

Most definitely not. Better people than me have argued that the imagination is a key element in our understanding of our relationshio with God. Take the Trinity as an example. It’s a tough one to explain,unless you use your imagination to come up with analogies. For instance, the legend goes that St Patrick used the shamrock to help explain it to the people that he met when he landed in Ireland. It’s one thing, but it’s made of 3 parts. Cunning eh?

And later on Ignatius Loyola (who I have talked about before) noticed that certain playful imaginings – saving damsels from terrible distress, winning glory and honours – left him feeling empty and depressed, whilst other imaginings – out-doing the saints in bravery, standing up for his faith in dramatic and implausible ways – left him feeling energised and envigorated.  In fact he developed a way of understanding God’s direction for his life through the play of imagination. (An excellent book that can help you with this is Landmarks by Margaret Silf).

Yes, I hear you say, but can’t we just imagine whatever we like and say that it was God? Yes of course we can. But I challenge you to find me one good thing in this world that can’t be turned on its head. There is nothing good that can’t be used for evil. However, with the right humble approach and the right checks on yourself this is such a fruitful and insightful way of finding out what God is saying to us that I would hate you to be put off by what is, after all, a danger of every spiritual approach we take.

Trinity Sunday marks the beginning in earnest of Ordinary Time, which is most of the Church’s year. In Ordinary Time we leave the highs of Easter and Christmas behind and the deep spirituality of Advent and Lent and get on with the boring bit. being a Christian every day. The play of the Imaginary can help us to make sense of this and give us inspiration. But it is the time of that wierd thing, the Trinity. At this time why not use your imagination to try and imagine the love, the joy, the creativity, the deep thought, the power that exists between a 3 personed unity. Go on, I dare you.

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