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.”
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.
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.
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.