Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Returning To The Father - Praying in the Holy Trinity

CONSCIOUSLY or  unconsciously  we all choose a life-way. In Rublev's Trinity the Father looks at the Spirit. The Son points to the Spirit. The way to God begins and is carried out in the Spirit. God is not an eternal vision but entrance into a dynamic which promises full and fresh life.

Look again, even the mountain and the tree (the terebinth of Mamre) bend or lean towards the Father and his house which is open and welcoming. "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places," Jesus said. Everything leads to the Father's heart - the Spirit, the Son, the elements the plants, the light itself!

And I'm invited too - and every person inhabiting this planet. This means if I take up my place in the opening at my side of the altar, not only will I meet God, but I will meet all the others. This may come as a shock to many people, including many religious people, who think of their religion or relationship as private.

The circles of the Trinity are ever-widening and expanding as my awareness of the others increases - as my heart opens and my sense of active solidarity with others grows. And then nothing can ever be the same. A Sunday TV called The Real Brazil reports that Brazil is the new global competitor in producing military aircraft. Do we really need more war planes? When I realize who is sitting alongside me from this planet, in the Trinitarian Circle, I begin to raise questions like this.

Indeed, one religious sister takes the newspaper  (when everyone is finished with it) cutting out the pictures and article headings  she feels she must pray about. She places them into a kind of scrapbook which she regards as her prayerbook - holding the book open on her lap for at least some of the time she spends in front of the Trinity icon, imagining that these persons in their desperation and struggle are sitting beside her to left and right. I might use the following approach to prayer before the icon as a discipline: 

  • Seating myself comfortably, I place the icon at eye level.
  • I first observe the Holy Three in conversation with one another.
  • The Spirit and the Son in harmony with the Father.
  • The mountain and tree leaning in towards the Father's open house.
  • There is a circular dynamic of shared divine life and love ~ Spirit and Son to the Father,
  • The Father completing the circular movement, returning this life and love to the Spirit.
  • I take up my place in this exchange - gently acknowledging my own union with the Spirit.
  • And then union with the Son - making the gift of myself to the Father with them and receiving whatever it is that God wants to share of himself with me.
  • I might enter this counter-clockwise circular movement each day - perhaps twice a day - and when distracted gently coming back to an awareness of the divine energies shared here. The Church Fathers speak of iron placed in fire and assuming the energies of the fire - though not becoming fire itself.

The Real Brazil show also indicated that Brazil is now the largest producer of designer flip-flops in the world: upscale stores  that sell only the latest in decorator colored and textured flip-flops. It's all the rage, we say. But in Brazil and many other countries, there are also garbage mountains where barefooted children pick through the garbage of the first-world searching for scraps of anything they might salvage - their feet cut up from metal and glass and infected with parasites and disease.

And so, while Rublev's Trinity is indeed a holy icon and to be entered into, venerated and contemplated,  these pictures and thousands of others like them, are part of the icon, equally to be kept near and contemplated:

Child-scavenging On Indonesian Garbage Mountain

Human Trafficking ~ the fastest growing crime on earth
I mustn't run or look away. Religion that doesn't transform or open up hearts is irrelevant. When religion talks about enlightenment it must mean getting out of and beyond myself so that I can see clearly enough to stand in solidarity and to love.

The little girl in the picture here should be in school and playing with happy classmates. Instead she is making bricks. Her future is grim.

Rublev created the Trinity Icon in a medieval world of darkness, slavery, war and  poverty. The discipline of sitting before and even IN the icon calls us to an experience of God in our own dark time, which is restorative, communal and which beautifies and enlivens the world through the transformation of my own heart and mind.


  1. What a wonderful way to look at this icon, as a invitation into prayer. The world that Rublev lived in may have been medieval, but we have that same darkness today. We need to remember to accept this invitation into the circle of God.

  2. This string of posts on the Holy Trinity has been a great education and offers some wonderful insights into Rublev's icon. Thank you and looking forward to more.

  3. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts on the Trinity. There isn't enough spirituality in this bleak world.