Trinity Sunday and the Story of Narcissus
The Most Holy Trinity: June 11, 2017
Every now and then, you may hear the word: “Narcissus”. You may hear the expression, “That person is so narcissistic.” Did you ever wonder where that word comes from and what it means?
Well, it comes from ancient Greek mythology. Although there are several different versions, the classic version is by Ovid, and is found in book 3 of Metamorphoses, completed in 8 AD. This is the story of Echo and Narcissus: Narcissus was a hunter who was the son of the river god Cephissus. One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, a mountain nymph, saw him and was instantly infatuated and fell passionately in love with him, and so she followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed, and shouted, “Who’s there?” Echo was so flabbergasted that he called out to her, all she would do was repeat: “Who’s there?’ She eventually revealed her identity and he bluntly told her to leave him alone. She was totally crushed and heartbroken. And so she spent the rest of her life in lonely glens, nothing but an echo sound remained of her.
Nemesis, the goddess of revenge learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. So she lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water. He did not realize it was only an image and so he fell in love with it. He spent the rest of his life staring at his own image he loved it so much. He eventually realized that his love could not be reciprocated and so he committed suicide. He killed himself because he could not have the object of his desire: himself.
So the word Narcissus has come to mean total selfishness, complete self-absorption. Obviously not a good thing, obviously evil and very sinful. Don’t be a narcissist. Don’t spend the rest of your life looking at yourself.
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, a day on which we honor our belief in a Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in a Triune God because God has revealed himself as such. Throughout the Bible God identifies himself as a Trinity, a truth we could never have discovered on our own. The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Much of our faith is REVEALED religion: truths revealed to us by God. Truths we never could have figured out on our own.
Since God is a Trinity, he is by nature a community. We are created in the image of God, another revealed truth. We human beings are also communal, we are not meant to live in isolation. That is why solitary confinement is the harshest punishment that can be inflicted upon a person. Human beings need and desire human interaction. We need to love and be loved. One cannot just love himself or herself. When the handsome youth Narcissus fell in love with his own image, he died.
God is not alone, God is three. For God to be “person” there must be a relationship within God. When one relates to others and love is shared, there is a sense that we are one. It is only in relationships that we have a sense of completeness. It is in relationships that we give and receive love. We live in relationships at so many levels of life, in marriage, in family, in church, at school, at work; in neighborhoods. Take your place in these communities. Let everyone know you care and you don’t consider yourself better than anyone else. If you do this you will live your life the way God intended you to live, in peace, happiness, and harmony.
Don’t be a Narcissus. No one likes a Narcissus. You’ve all met many of them in your lives. They are the ones who think they are better than you. They are the ones who are stuck on themselves. They are described as ‘full of themselves.’ They are the ones who are called conceited. They are the ones who are out for themselves and really don’t care about anyone but themselves. They are the ones with only a few friends who are just like them, or no friends at all and don’t even know it. They are ones who think the world revolves around them.
The moral is: don’t be a narcissist, don’t spend the rest of your life looking at yourself. Instead, be a trinity, and spend the rest of your life looking at others.
In the name of the Father, and of Son, and of Holy Spirit. Amen.
--Fr. Terry Hazel
Exodus 34:4b–6, 8–9
“The Lord, the Lord, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love
for a thousand generations....”
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.”
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have