The scent of God on my breath

We had a great time in the Diocesan House Chapel of the Holy Angels today for our weekly Eucharist. It was the transferred feast of Andrei Rublev, monk and iconographer, so we opened a box of rose scented Turkish Delight so that the chapel was filled with the fragrance of roses and played off the 2 Corinthians reading “…and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ…”

On Mount Athos – a peninsula in Greece on which I have hiked, the pilgrims to the orthodox guest houses of these monasteries are greeted at the door (having hiked from the last monastery) by the guest-brother who welcomes them with words which evoke his theology – that he welcomes Christ every time the door opens to a stranger.

The visitor is welcomed inside and a bed is prepared in the guest house. Prior to being shown to one’s bed, there is a small ritual just inside the door. The pilgrim is invited to take off the pack-pack and enter a small room just off the inside of the entryway. This is the “welcome room” in which the pilgrim is seated and a small tray is brought and place before the pilgrim. On the tray is a small cup of espresso, a small shot of alcohol and a small collection of rose loukoumi (known to westerners and readers of the Narnia Chronicles as rose-flavored Turkish Delight.) The coffee stimulates, the alcohol relaxes tired muscles and prepares one for a 7:00 bedtime (prayers begin at 2:30 AM!) and the Turkish Delight is a theological statement of tasting the beauty of God and comes, in part, from this reading.

*The Holy Trinity Icon, (Rublev) Mount Athos, Greece, Egg tempera on carved wood, 2000

A Meditation for the Feast of Andrei Rublev: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
The Chapel of the Holy Angels, Diocesan House, Weekly Eucharist
Charles LaFond, Preacher

In a society so inundated with images every day on facebook, television, advertising and other media, it is hard to imagine what a 15th century Christian would have thought on encountering an icon – a painted board full of colorful pigments of choral and ochre, cobalt and crimson. For most people of that time, most clothes, most homes and most work places were …well…brown. So an image like the Rublev Trinity Icon would have been mystifying. The first name for the computer screen was an “iconograph.”

Today is the transferred feast of Andrei Rublev, monk and artist who wrote icons as a way to extend the gospel to people who could not read and to readers whose imagination needed the encouragement of art to fuel their imagination and “see” the beauty of God.

Rublev’s most famous icon was that of the Holy Trinity (seen above). This version of his icon is an exact repainting of its original colors by a monk on Mount Athos, Greece at Prodroumou Monastery. His name is Father Modest (pronounced from the Romanian with the emphasis on the second syllable.) Names are important and the name of a church is important to its people such as our chapel which is named for the Holy Angels. Rublev’s monastery was named for the Trinity and so he placed special care in this icon which is arguably the world’s most famous.

(The large, wooden icon was placed on a side table.)

There are volumes to say about this image which can be seen as a representation of the Holy Trinity or the Angels at Mamre. But what strikes me this morning, as it is paired to our readings for the Rublev feast, is the way these three androgynous persons sit in stillness, together with faces and hands gesturing in circles one to the other. They are an image of community; not grabbing on to each other nor pulling away from each other. They model our being together. Not arguing nor avoiding. We humans tend to lean in, lean away or lean against…these persons model just being. There is nothing passive and yet in their stillness they have tremendous energy. The open space at the table welcomes us into that stillness, for that meal, at that table – a place set for you and me. We are welcome to God as we stand or sit side-by-side. We are not evil and streaked with good. We are made good and only streaked with evil. And in that move forward to the table we become community.

(Postscript: Yesterday, in an email exchange with the iconographer of my Rublev Trinity Icon (a Romanian monk, guest-brother and iconographer on Mount Athos) he noted that since the Athonite monasteries welcome their guests with Rose-flavored loukoumi (Turkish Delight,) I might end the service with some loukoumi as an offering to the congregation – to remind them of the beauty of the flavor and aroma of God which we wear into the world like perfume on a person’s sweater after a hug with a fragrance –laden friend. So we ended with Rose-flavored Turkish Delight. There is a box – right now – in the hospitality room if you want to stop by for some at Dio house!)

2 Corinthians 2:14-17
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.


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