Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Contemplating the Rublev Trinity Icon ~ Getting Ready

ALL OF THE MAJOR RELIGIONS HAVE MYSTICAL TRADITIONS. In Roman Catholicism there are Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. In Judaism there is Kabbalistic philosophy and theosophy. Sufism is mystical Islam. Shaikh Shabestari, one of the most celebrated 14th century Sufi mystical poets. says this about Christianity.

"Christianity is non-attachment and detachment - freedom from the fetters of imitation are the pith and whole design I see in Christianity."

 But how are we to live this way: without attachments and inwardly free as God's children? Saint Paul tells us:

 "Now brothers and sisters, let your minds dwell on what is true, what is worthy, what is right, what is pure, what is amiable, what is kindly - on everything that is excellent or praiseworthy," (Philippians 4:8).

Perhaps another way of saying this even more succinctly: "Do everything you can to get Christ into your life; there is everything to take him away."

The Eastern Church keeps no particular feast in honor of the Holy Trinity because every liturgy is suffused with Trinitarian references. But the Western Church keeps the Feast of the Holy Trinity as one of the post-Easter Sundays: Pentecost, Trinity, The Body and Blood of Christ.

St. Andrei Rublev holding the Trinity icon 

Saint Andrei Rublev has given the world his icon of the symbolic Holy Trinity, which might help us not only to keep the Trinitarian feast this coming Sunday, but also to live more deeply considered lives as St. Paul suggests in the Philippian verse above and  the more detached life Shaikh Shabestari sees as the design of Christian living.

Andrei Rublev, born around 1360, is considered to be the greatest painter of medieval Russian icons and frescoes. He became a monk of the Trinity~St. Sergius Monastery outside Russia and died around 1430, having moved to the Andronikov Monastery, also near Russia. He is buried in that monastery and was canonized a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church in June of 1988.

He is most well known for his icon sometimes called the Old Testament Trinity, which was painted around 1425. It still exists and is displayed at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The image is 56" X 46". While the word icon can be used for any kind of image, in its most narrow understanding, it is a painting in egg tempera on wood of sacred persons, done in the Byzantine style.

Rublev didn't invent the idea for the symbolic image of the Trinity. The image is based on the scriptural account in Genesis of the three messengers who visited Abraham and Sarah, to tell them that they would have a son even in their old age. But Rublev simplified the theme, eliminating extraneous parts so that we could focus our attention on the three figures exclusively, seeing in them the anticipation of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity: that there is one God, but within God's inner life, there is a community of persons ~ Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Rublev painted the icon of the Trinity for the monastery's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity - and it is essential to understand this - at a time when Russian life, like much of the medieval world, was very dark, defined by wars, invasions, violence, famine, tremendous poverty, hardship and disease. The black and white 1966 film, Rublev, created during the Soviet years, aptly conveys the desperation of his century.

The Trinity icon is a gift to the whole world, then and now, as it shines with a bright light, announcing the dynamic of God's shared inner life. To the world wherever and whenever it knows desperation and disintegration, the icon silently teaches that within God, there is life, community, family and relationship, and that when all seems lost, we are each invited to enter into that dynamic - a dynamic of transformative shared divine energies.

1 comment:

  1. Just saw this on Twitter. I see that it is from last year but I didn't know about Pauca Verba then. I am going to check out the page of contemplations next. It is perfect reading for Trinity Sunday.