EASY AS 1, 3, 2: MONOTHEISM, TRINITY AND HYPOSTATIC UNION
It really was a typical morning in a Pre-K classroom: the children were gathering on the platform after putting on their coats so that we could head over to the Social Hall to practice our Christmas Pageant. Amidst the hustle and bustle of thirty coats to zip and sixty mittens to find and lose again, one boy jumped off the platform, came up to my rocking chair and asked, “Is Jesus God?” I answered in the affirmative as my eyes were locked on the frustrating teeth of a winter coat. Janie quickly piped in, “But my Mom and Dad say that Jesus is not God.” OK, this girl successfully got my full attention, and I had all the other children’s attention as they sat bewildered, “I thought Sister and our Moms and Dads always agreed!” Meanwhile, I was thinking that a lesson on the hypostatic union seemed a bit advanced, but somehow we were going to reconcile this dogma with the Fourth Commandment in a developmentally appropriate way. I needed some time to brainstorm an action plan, so I quickly began rehearsing the song, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” with the children - complete with hand motions. The Holy Spirit led the discussion from there... “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” The children finished the song with perfect Latin pronunciation and their right and left pointer and thumb fingers forming an equilateral triangle. “What are your hands doing?” I asked. The children were quick to explain that they were forming a triangle, and they all agreed that a triangle has three corners. Being the intelligent children they are, they remembered that there is One God and Three Persons and that their names are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A triangle was quickly drawn on the chalkboard to allow fingers to rest. I pulled a book off the shelf and asked Johnny to show me the beginning of the story. Being the intelligent child he is, he found it at the beginning. I explained that we all had a beginning, but God never had a beginning. Mind boggling, I know, but those kids got it - with the help of “forever” hand motions. We pointed to each corner of the triangle and agreed that the Father is God; the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Through pure logic, we also agreed that the Father always was, is and will be; the Son always was, is and will be, and the Holy Spirit always was, is and will be. “Holy Spirit, come,” I prayed. “How am I supposed to get them to understand divine and human nature?” I told the children, albeit sheepishly, “God didn’t have a body. I know that’s hard to imagine. He didn’t have eyes, toes, or fingers. But, you know Adam?” The children all nodded. “Well, remember? He made the first bad choice. That was a big problem, because the gates of Heaven were closed. God needed eyes, toes, and fingers to open them.” Ah! Ha! One child shouted out, “So, He became a baby!” “Yes,” I whispered (for fear that the hypostatic union excitement would begin a chain reaction of hyper-static chaos in the classroom). “But which Person do you think became the baby?” “The Son!” they shouted. “Yes!” I whispered, “One day, God decided that it was time to begin to open the gates, so he became a tiny baby, named Jesus, in Mary’s belly. God had never had eyes, toes or fingers, but on Christmas He showed the whole world his body.” You could hear a pin drop, and I had tears in my eyes as I watched their eyes marvel at the mystery of God made Man. We toured the Trinity triangle again to make sure there were no more heretics in the room. They all agreed that each Person was God and that each Person always was, is and will be. They all agreed that the Son was the only Person to get eyes, fingers, and toes to open Heaven. The stickler teacher that I am, I tested them through a newly phrased thought process at the end: “Is the Son God?” “Yes.” “Did the Son have a beginning?” “No.” “Is Jesus God?” “Yes.” “Did Jesus as a baby have a beginning? “Yes!” They got it! I returned to the normal hustle and bustle of coat zipping, but the triangle drawn out of chalk and the baby doll that served as the Baby Jesus prop had transformed the classroom into a Council of Chalcedon for ten minutes and had transformed my heart with a greater dosage of gratitude to the God who “so loved the world that He gave us His only Son” (Jn 3:16).