Saturday, May 17, 2008

Trinity Sunday

Icon with the Trinity (1411) - Andrei Rublev (1360-c.1430)

IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY, Andrei Rublev, a saintly painter-monk of the Russian Orthodox Church, depicted (the) heavenly visitors (who appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre) in an icon referred to as "The Old Testament Trinity." It was judged by the Russian hierarchy to be the most Orthodox representation of the doctrine of the Trinity rising from their religious culture ... The table around which the angels sit is itself a kind of symbolic mountain and the rectangular opening in the icon represents that place where the bones of dead saints are ritually kept, the tomb of the elect beneath the altar of sacrifice.

(A) circle draws us into the icon making us participants in the heavenly repast. We complete that circle by joining in the sacra conversazione. We dance the dance and partake of the feast. The sky in the icon is gold for we are transported outside of time and space into a sacred precinct.

House, tree, mountain, altar, chalice, wings, scepters, purple, green, red, gold ... we are caught up in the iconography devised by a saint to describe an ineffable mystery draped in the theology of color and arranged in a geometry of grace.
-- Fr. Michael Morris, O. P., MAGNIFICAT [May 2008, Vol. 10, No. 3]

1 comment:

Steve said...

Fr. Morris' analysis is illuminating. I'm struck by something he doesn't mention--viz., Christ's very human looking feet (compared to the others'), impossibly extending below the altar to connect the other two angel-figures. Those feet can't by any visual interpolation be connected to that body, but the geometry of the composition as a whole distracts us from recognizing it. A visual metaphor for trinitarian mystery, perhaps. Or just an afterthought by the artist maybe. What is the small recess on the front of the altar? Does it indicate a building stone--the stone the builders rejected, perhaps?