The person who introduced this icon to me commented that nothing is wasted in an icon. The more I become familiar with icons, the more I am learning the truth of this. As I remarked in a recent blog on the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, icons are wonderful because the more time you spend reflectively gazing at them, the more you learn from them. They really are the Scriptures in visual form. As such, there is so much we can learn from them.
The basis of the Icon of the Trinity is Genesis 18:1ff where we read the account of the LORD appearing to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre in the form of three men. Thus on one level, the icon is an historical depiction of this event – you can notice the oak tree and, I would hazard to guess, Abraham’s house in the background providing the historical setting.
But, as is always the case, the significance of the icon is only really appreciated when we take a deeper look. One understanding of this event is that the three men were a Theophany i.e. that this was a revelation of the Blessed Trinity in the Old Testament. It is this interpretation that the icon picks up.
Because there is so much to learn through the various icons, I thought that I would share just a few thoughts on the icon and leave the rest to you as you meditate upon it…
Firstly, notice that there are three figures, but that they are all identical in size and appearance. This points to the fundamental truth of the Trinity – that there is but one God in three “hypostasis” (or persons as we like to say). Each “person” of the Trinity is equally God. This is why each of the figures is wearing a blue garment and each is holding a sceptre – to picture that each is equally Divine. The posture of the figures is quite telling. The Son and the Holy Spirit have their heads tilted and their eyes fixed upon the Father, which speaks of their respective roles in the Trinity. The position of the Son’s hand is positioned in a way that reminds us that He has two natures – human and divine.
But without going into much more detail regarding the icon (I will leave that to you and your own reflections), I do want to touch on the thing that was probably the most special for me…and that is the chalice which is filled with the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (remembering that this is an Eastern icon, and the practise in the East is to have the Precious Body and Blood mingled in the chalice). The Son has given His blood (indicated by the colour of His robe), and this is now being offered to the viewer, which is clear by the position of the chalice on the table i.e. it is at the point closest to the viewer. But if this is not enough to get his point across, the iconographer highlights the fact by depicting the three figures in the shape of a chalice showing that in the chalice, God is doing nothing less than offering us His very own self.
And that is the wonder and mystery of the Eucharist. Through Holy Communion, we really and truly share in the Divine life of God Almighty…and as we partake of His Divinity, we are changed more and more into His likeness.
Now, isn’t that amazing?