Trinity Sunday

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In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. The Trinity, the Holy Trinity. A doctrine of faith. One God in three persons, and a mystery. God the Father, the first person. The old bearded man, the wise old man? Why old and why a man? Why the Father, because Jesus declared Himself Son of God, Son of man. The father in the ancient world exhibited power as much of that civilization was a patriarchy, a world in which males dominated, and where men were in authority. God was all mighty, and the man was the seat of authority in the family. It’s an image of power and authority that man can relate to, but does that suggest God is male? I should think not, and that is not simply to appease the feminist agenda. It’s not simply Father and Son, it the dynamic relationship between Father and Son. I think to the Sistine Chapel and to the frescos of Michelangelo. His depiction of creation and specifically in his creation of man. It’s not the image painted but the relationship between God the Father and Adam. Do I see God in that old man? To answer my own question, no I do not. In those images two arms are extended, and two fingers nearly touch. The fingers of the creator and creation. God, to these eyes today, sees the almighty in the space between those fingers, a God eternally reaching out. Also, a man never able to totally grasp his God. A God that extends His love and becomes Man. The word made flesh. God becomes man. In the space between those fingers lies a dynamic not so easily defined. Imagine if those fingers were to touch, if God were to touch man and if man were to touch God. Think about the moments when they do indeed touch. Creation, the Nativity. That after all is the point of the fresco, it’s about creation.   The breath of life. The Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit sent at Pentecost. The Spirit of God breathed into  man.

Why though do I ponder that painting on the Sistine ceiling on this day to contemplate the Trinity? Its image is not about the trinity, but is about creation. Part of the reason is its fame and influence. Michelangelo was one of the greatest artists of the western world, and one of the greatest in the entire world. His imagery carries weight in my world. His image of the Father is often referenced and copied. It is how many infants learn of their God, the God of the first person of the trinity. One can ask though, is God old and can God ever grow old? The image raises some questions, old and young is one of them. Old and young can also be renamed old and new. That is the old and new of the testaments. Is the Old God the God of the Old Testament? Where is the God of the New Testament? Where is Jesus, or did He come into existence only a couple thousand years ago? Of course every Christian knows that is wrong, He is the alpha and the omega. Jesus is the first and the last. He is eternal, and eternity encompasses all directions. If that depiction is God reaching out to Adam, can it also be the New Adam reaching out to His Father? Is He reaching out for us? An eternal God, true God from true God. Our finite bodies have trouble contemplating the infinite. Western art has a way of partitioning God, Old Man, Young Man, and a Dove. Lets not forget though the Wisdom of God is described as feminine.

Turn then to Eastern Christianity, take glance at Andri Rublev’s Trinity. Gone are the two men and a dove. His is an image of three Angels, similar in age and appearance, but clothed in colors and symbols representative of their Persons. They are described as the Angels that visited Abraham, yet they also represent the Triune God. On a casual glance the viewer cannot tell the Father from the Son from the Holy Spirit. The viewer must learn the meanings of the colors and of the symbols. This God is not glanced at, God is pondered. Curious in this icon is that God I represented as an Angel, and that causes me to think of ancient descriptions of the Christ. Jesus once was considered to be an Angel. The problem became where to place Jesus in the choir of Angels. The Nicene Creed was the solution. Jesus sat at the right hand of the Father, true God from true God. That is, equal to God. Does that explain the similarity of those Angels in the Icon? The interesting point of this icon, formally called “the hospitality of Abraham”, is that it does not correspond to Michelangelo’s God of the creation. Instead it is more reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci’s the Last Supper. The three persons of God are gathered around an altar table. It is at that table that we are invited to partake in the mystery of our God. The God of the Trinity..

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