If you’re looking for a last minute gift for someone (remember, Christmas goes on till Epiphany), consider the “Septem-Seater Tricycle.” Don’t worry that it costs $20,000; you can charge it or put it on a payment plan! Yes, it is the seven-seat tricycle in the Hammacher Schlemmer Catalog. I suspect it is one of those corporate “team-building” items. A large corporation might be able to afford the hefty cost or even just rent it for corporate “retreats.” It would sure be fun to try it out.
At any rate I was intrigued when I came across it a couple of years ago, and saw in it an image of the Church. I know that I exaggerate when I “see” these things, but it is good to reminded of the Lord and His Church in many different ways.
That it is a tricycle surely reminds us of the Trinity, the foundation on which our faith rests and rolls. Or perhaps the three wheels speak to the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus (from whose wounded side came forth His bride, the Church, and whose resurrection means she is a bride rather than a widow). Or maybe it’s the three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) that enable us to fully participate (or ride) in the Church. Or perhaps the three wheels are the three degrees of Holy Orders (bishop, priest, and deacon), on which the Church both rides and is steered.
The seven seats may speak to the seven sacraments, or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, or the seven churches of Revelation. But we ought not forget that the number ‘7’ is also a number specifying perfection and fullness. And thus the seven seats speak to the “full number of the elect” that is known only to God. This is my preferred interpretation: that the seven riders represent the full Membership of the Church.
Each of the seats is adjustable. This speaks to the different gifts and needs that people bring and to the Church’s capacity to use the different gifts and adjust to the different needs, while also insisting that each person find a seat and act in a way that does not hinder her main task of making the journey to Heaven.
The seats are arranged in a circle. This indicates the equal dignity of every baptized member. In the Church, although there are different roles and there is authority, all are equal in dignity before God. The Pope has supreme authority in the Church, but he is no more baptized than anyone else. In the Church, authority is exercised among equals.
Note that all the riders hold on to a single, circular handlebar. This speaks to the fact there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. Yes, we all hold to the one, true faith and to a Church that has among her four marks that she is “one.” Even the driver’s steering wheel is attached on and through the circular bar.
There is only one steering wheel. This brings to mind the Pope in the universal Church and the Bishop in the local Church. Only one person can steer. Give everyone a steering wheel and there is chaos, struggle for power; it’s an accident waiting to happen. If no one is pope, then everyone is pope; and that is very, very bad. It will be noted that the driver is the only one to steer, but he is able to get feedback, advice, and encouragement from the other riders. And thus though his leadership is collaborative, it is ultimately a single leadership. Every body needs a head. A body with two heads is a freak, and a body with no head is dead. Every body, including the Church, needs a head. Thus this image of the church has one steering wheel. And for those who say that the head is a book (the Bible) not a pope, I say that books can’t see to steer; it takes a real person to see, to be inspired, and thus to steer.
Every seat including the driver’s has pedals. This means that everyone must do his part. If one member suffers or lapses, all the members will suffer; if one member has an energy burst and can pedal gloriously, all the members are glorified. If one member is struggling, there are six others to compensate. But all must reasonably do their part, play their role, and contribute to the journey of the Church to glory. If too many are allowed to stray, or to pedal backwards, or to drag their feet, then the forward progress gets difficult and other members suffer. Thus the Church must correct and insist that all do their part.
Every seat must be filled or the work gets harder for those who remain. It may eventually stop or even go backwards if too many seats are unoccupied. And thus evangelization is crucial to keeping the seats filled and the work of the Lord’s Church moving forward. Further, empty seats mean that some are being left behind; this should be considered unacceptable for the Church, whose mission it is to make sure that the full number of the elect find their way home. Every empty seat is a disgrace, a failure of mission, and it makes the work even harder.
Well, more can be said. Feel free to add your own commentary on this seven-seat tricycle. Here’s a video that shows the trike in action. The video is funny, too, since it is kind of a spoof of 1950s TV ads, complete with silly elevator music and a lot of phony waves and staged enthusiasm. Someday I would love to get the chance to ride one of these tricycles. You may notice that some of the scenes in the video depart from proper ecclesiology. See if you can find the errors in the video!