Monday, 20 June 2011
Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity has been reproduced in varying forms; first created in the 15th century it is an image which has stood the test of time and stirs within the observer something often un-named, something indefinable
I have had a little copy of the icon since my student days - it was a gift from my friend Eileen, and often meditated on it; prayed about it, and studied its meaning and symbolism.
I did not know where the original was kept – although I assumed somewhere in Russia.
I did not know where it was until about six years ago.
In the summer of 2005 I was lucky enough to visit Moscow for a holiday; one of my closest friends was living there whilst her husband had been posted to the Moscow office... and she had thoroughly enjoyed having visitors to stay and showing them the sites.
She and I had visited many churches and monasteries – and everywhere we went there were copies of the icon- old and new, plain and simple or rich and gaudy; towards the end of my stay we had spent the day in the city, and had sat in Red Square drinking coffee and watching the world go by – a very surreal experience!
We then went into St Basil’s Cathedral – an iconic church instantly recognisable the world over!
St Basil’s is actually seven churches, each built around the central core church so that as you explore you spiral round from one to another, each different, each from a different era. I was telling Barbara once again about Rublev, and how much I’d love to see the original...
She was a few paces ahead of me in a narrow, winding passage when she suddenly halted
She held my arm and pushed me gently forward
And there it was
With a bench in front to sit and gaze
About a metre square
Protected from light, and heat, and people
It moved me then
And it moves me still
One of the first things I did as I sat and took in the wonder was think of Eileen - so I sent her a text, right then! From Moscow to Aberdeen with love!
The icon shows three individuals; each face is identical
All three figures wear a blue garment – some more visible than others
Blue is the colour of heaven and of divinity
Each also wears a garment that speaks of their individual identity
We begin with the figure on the right
The Spirit wears a blue robe, for divinity
And a green robe representing new life
The Spirit is also touching the table, bringing to earth the divine life of God
Think about the Spirit’s touch during communion; we invite the Spirit to come; in one of the prayers are the words: “Lord you are holy indeed, fountain of all holiness, let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy”
Behind the Spirit is a mountain
Mountains have long been associated as places where people meet with God
Jesus was transfigured on a mountain – allowing Peter, James and John to glimpse God’s glory
Reflect on your own mountaintop encounter with God
The Spirit is inclined slightly to the left, drawing us to look at the central figure:
Again we see the blue robe of divinity, this time paired with brown for the earth, confirming his humanity
He also has a gold stripe on his robe- signifying his kingship
The Christ rests two fingers on the table: showing both his divinity and humanity were present on earth; with his other hand he points to the cup, showing the cup he bore, and the price he paid...
Behind the Christ there is a tree
The tee represents the cross – the tree on which he died
The cross is the tree of death, which in turn became the tree of eternal life
The tree of life was lost to humanity when Adam and Eve disobeyed
It is restored to humanity now, because Jesus obeyed
Reflect for a moment on the paradox of the cross: where death and life collide
Death gives way to resurrection and eternal life
The Christ is inclined to the left and once again our eyes are drawn onwards, this time to the third figure
This figure is at rest within itself
There is a blue garment, but it is almost hidden by the shimmering, ethereal robe of gold – kingship
The Creator is not visible to human eyes but is known through the Son and the Spirit; the Creator clasps his staff with both hands
All authority in heaven and earth belong to the Father
Behind the Father figure we see a house
The dwelling of God
“In my Father’s house are many mansions....”
“I go there to prepare a place for you”
All three figures show us God, united, yet distinct
each: Father, Son and Spirit touch us, move us, change us - and through them our blessings multiply - what a blessing!