This icon by 15th C Russian iconographer Andre Rublev is the most helpful text I have ever read about the nature of God. His image calls on the story in Genesis of Abraham and Sarah being visited by God in their desert tent in the form of three angelic figures. It is titled The Old Testament Trinity.
Divinity is depicted in this telling by the haloed, angel winged beings in community. It is their relatedness that is the main focus of Rublev’s art. I would have liked to have known Rublev. I imagine him in his studio, a holy man himself, prayerfully bringing onto his canvas the gaze of each of the three figures, one to another. It is his image of God. In this divine scene they sit in a circle, a non-hierarchical community. “The triune God is a union in which all share responsibility without subordination or privilege,” Elisabeth Johnson writes in her book, She Who Is. In the beginning was community.
Iconography is an art-form that emerges only out of a disciplined prayer life. At first glance icons can look distorted, lifeless, non-dimensional, but focusing on the image in prayer over time, the icon takes on dimension. And we are invited in.
Stay with Rublev’s icon, and you will hear there is a place in this circle for us. For the one who gazes on this image of God, we find that we are actually now part of this open circle. Our gaze places us there, part of this divine community.
In spiritual direction we imagine a divine community. We remember to think of three chairs present - one for the directee, one for the spiritual companion, one for God. In between, in the gaze of each, there is God. My understanding of what Genesis says about humanity itself, created in the image of God, is that this image is never singular, but reflected in the union between us. It is why the work of reconciliation is such sacred and important work, and in the Christian tradition, the primary work of the faithful. When what is broken between human beings and between humans and God is restored by forgiveness and grace, the divine is restored. The loving gaze returned is the image of God once again.
Stillpoint is celebrating the completion of our second Group Spiritual Direction class.12 facilitators are graduating for the work of nurturing the divine in community in the group setting. In time, it is our hope that wherever you live in Southern California, there may be a spiritual direction group for you to join: a place where a common desire for God is held, and through prayerful life together, the divine spirit felt and known in community.
When two or three are gathered in my name,
The Gospel of Matthew 18:20
Blessings for the Journey,