Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stepping Up To The Circle Of The Trinity (4)

A FRIEND WROTE SAYING that she was beginning to understand and appreciate the Trinity icon after reading the daily posts. Surely appreciation is increased when we are open and allow ourselves to be taught, but appreciation also increases when we stop to consider the icon and to look at it long and deeply. Never come before an icon as we do a TV commercial selling a product we don't need.

We say that a room is alive with color. Indeed, the icon is alive, but not the same as  lively. The icon  is a place of encounter with the other side, if you will. This doesn't just mean heaven, but there is the other side of my consciousness - my consciousness that isn't wrapped up in this-world concerns, or the masks we wear, or the defenses we create, or the persona we present to appear this way for this person and that way for that person.

Notice at once that while the three figures of the icon are looking at one another, there is also an open space in the front and that we see them full faced. These elements call us to step into the intimacy of the circle they've created around the table and the harmonious conversation that is obviously taking place. Silence is key. If I were to be invited to visit an important person, a pope, president, king or queen, I would never come into the person's presence talking, but I would be silent and wait to be addressed. It is the same with an icon; come into its radiant presence in silence. No hurry!

Circling. When we were little in grade school and getting ready to play a game, more often than not it began with the teacher saying, "Everyone get in a circle."  Or the first dances we learned as children were circle dances. Circle the wagons, we say when there's trouble threatening the group.

Circles invite and are an expression of unity. And here in Rublev's Trinity, the Holy Three are sitting in a circle around the table - the central figure behind and the other two at the sides and even coming around to the front. This circle seems to reach out to include or draw in the viewer.

But then there is a second circle in which the figures reside. If we were to place the top of a glass tumbler flat over the figures in the icon, they would fit perfectly inside the circle created by it.  And if that circle were to be divided up, pie-like into eight segments, each segment would contain a kind of echo of the opposite. This is a reflection of the divine equality of the figures. 

Lastly, there are an additional three circles which are the halos around the heads. The halo means: Pay attention to the face! Pay attention to the face! All of this circling suggests that this image is about community, conversation, intimacy, family, relationship, union.

There is of course, the movement of the figures that happens just because the three are seated so intimately. But there is also the active inner circular sharing of divine energies, divine life and love - one to the other, each holding simultaneously the fullness of who and what God is! Perichoresis is the technical  Greek  word that names that relational circling and sharing of divinity among the persons of the Trinity. Even the sound of the word seems to have movement and life in it! A circle might then be a better image for the Trinitarian sharing  than a shamrock or triangle, both of which are static and lifeless, while the circle is dynamic.

Contemplate the circular movements within the icon. But remain an observant outsider for now; don't take up your seat in the empty space just yet.

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