Trinity Sunday Reflection
I would like to approach the mystery of the Trinity through the eyes of Andrei Rublev, a fifteenth-century medieval artist who depicted this mystery in his exquisite icon known as the “Hospitality of Abraham.” This icon takes as its subject the visitation of three persons who approach the camps by the oak of Mamre and begin a profound conversation among themselves as witnessed by Abraham; their presence was highly indicative of a metaphor for the three Persons of the Trinity or three angels of visitation. I focus on the former, the Trinity. Throughout the encounter, it is evident that the presence of God is in this place and all that is needed is a leap of faith and deep meditation on the majesty of this encounter. The scriptures tell us that Abraham offered them a meal and so, seated at a table are the three who dialogue with each other and with Abraham as they present an unmistakable vision of unity, solidarity and equanimity. The wings of the angels or Persons are gold, as is the chalice on the table (Eucharist?) resting on a fabric of white, a color which also surrounds the three heads where God is revealed and disclosed in the whiteness of this light. Rublev gives each person different clothing of distinctive coloring although the expression on their faces is very much the same. Whether or not we take the figures as angels or as the Trinitarian Persons they depict, they came to Abraham, our father in faith, to reveal the truth of God to him and to raise him to theological heights. We are companions on the journey to the Father’s House, depicted in gold, as the culmination of the journey is our ultimate goal in this life.
No doubt, Rublev had a purpose in assigning different color variations to the clothing of the three. The Holy Spirit is arrayed in blue and green indicating that sky and sea are punctuated by the creative power of this comforter, the essential breath of God, this guide in communicating a presence of heaven and earth to all created things, The Son has the deepest colors; a garment reminiscent of the red-brown earth and a cloak of the brightest blue of heaven’s sky clearly uniting the brown of the earth with the sapphire blue of the sky, unifying colors, as the two natures of his Person are one in his godhead and humanity. God the Father seems to wear all the colors in a profusion of beauty that seems utterly transparent, filling the universe with an overwhelming vibrancy of spectacular hue. Actually, they all wear some semblance of blue, the color of divinity, green, of the Spirit, the color of life in all its forms, and the Son’s deep and royal red, majestic and precious symbol of the Incarnation.
There is so much more in the analytical interpretation of this icon and I leave the bulk of its interpretation to your own meditation. To me, the most important feature is the empty space at the table because the space is on our side. We are invited to become a living part of the group, to complete the movements of God in our troubled, tortured world, to join in the conversation, to complete the circle, and to revel in their dance of life. In his book Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons, Henri Nouwen brings insight into the painting’s spiritual dimensions, saying, “As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine Persons and to join them around the table. The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward the Father become a motion in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure.” In the overflowing abundance of the Trinitarian reality we, harnessed by faith, respond to the invitation to believe that the Spirit will lead us to complete truth, for it is shared with the Son, Who in turn shares in everything the Father has. And so, on this beautiful feast, we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as it was made known to us by Jesus. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the unity of a single person, but in the Trinity of a single substance in three equally divine Persons. I hope you take some time to meditate on this beautiful Icon, and that it helps in discerning the awesome mystery of the Trinity. “Come follow the Spirit up the hill of prayer. Come, live in the shadow of the Son of God; rest yourself beneath His tree of life.”
Come, journey to the home, prepared for you in the house of our God.
The table is spread, the door is open. Come!
Sr. Anne Daniel Young, OP