Andrei Rublev’s Troitsa: The Trinity
Rublev’s icon of the Trinity. May 30th is Trinity Sunday and I explained why we celebrate the Trinity. This icon isn’t used for Trinity Sunday, but Pentecost where the descent of the Holy Spirit is understood as the revelation of the triune God.
Looking back at our journey thus far from Holy Week, we’ve participated in the Passion, the anguish and torment of ‘not my will, but yours,’ through to the celebration of the risen Christ on Easter Day. Then, the feast of the Ascension which paved the way for the Holy Spirit to descend at Pentecost. Now we begin our season of growth. Echoed in the greening of the trees and fields, where plants are growing rapidly as if to catch up where they should have been weeks ago.
Everything finally seems to be ordering itself back into some semblance of normality, and then … this icon. Iconography has its own rules on perspectives and how faces look but this icon compels me to look and look again. I find it odd, yet compelling. I have struggled each time with the odd perspectives until I discovered why they have been drawn in this manner. Though the drawings may seem completely against the rules of perspective and in one way they are. They go against the grain of our perceived normality.
Much in the same way as Jesus’ life did here on earth. He did not conform to the ways of this world and invites us to walk with him along a path that seems odd to the passer-by. Rublev used a technique known as reverse perspective, so that the point of convergence is you and the subjects in the painting are much nearer than you would consider. Normally we would expect to look at a painting as through a window, with the point of convergence way off in the distance. We observe paintings from a distance – there is as much space as we would like between us and it – we can keep our distance.
Not so with this icon. We are immediately subjected and included in the drama that unfolds before us. Much can be said about this icon and how it depicts Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a manner that is intricate and carefully thought out. It depicts the triune God but involves us as we are the point of convergence of the perspectives. But what does that mean for us?
Icon painting does have its own rules, rejecting much of traditional painting techniques. It does not conform to the world, and therefore can teach us something about the Christian perspective of reality. The observer is no longer just an observer of the painting; reality does not begin with us, and we cannot subject it to our criteria. Rather, Rublev ensures that we are the point of convergence of all that goes on, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as part of our being. The triune Godhead illuminates us. We can only be illuminated when we subject ourselves to that point of convergence and allow the Holy Spirit to lead, inspire and help us discern what is of God.
To ask God to lead in our lives is not an easy task. A key aspect of this is openness and vulnerability. We mustn’t try to force things, rather allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the giver of life, who transforms our lives through baptism. And it is through the Holy Spirit that we receive inspiration and revelation for the teaching of the Church.
As we enter a season of new growth, both liturgically and with the easing of lockdown, where do we look for the illumination that God provides for us in our lives? This will be unique to you. It will be in what you find life-giving.
As we find our way forward, as individuals and as a community of believers, let us remember that we are part of God’s picture of life, and we are drawn into a new creation. One that has God at the centre, where we are his, and He is ours.
With every blessing,