A long time ago, when I was 40, one of my best friends bought me a print of Rublev's Icon. Before then it was an attractive piece of Russian medieaval art - since then it has been a source of spiritual and contemplative reflection that has often drawn me into the presence of the Triune God.
I never tire of looking at it, thinking about the rich interplay of familiar symbol, noting the liturgical colours, listening for unmistakable biblical resonance, joying in (enjoying) the deep mystery it portrays, of the Holy Trinity, the eternal communion of self-giving love, the God who is Father, Son, Spirit. Sixteen years on my icon has faded, it hangs in the College study and is still one of the focal points in my mind and heart when I want lifted beyond all this - whatever 'all this' happens to be at the time!
And then today, Frances brought me a new copy (for which many thanks!) - bright, colourful, unfaded, once again a glimpse into truths too dazzling to see, and into a world beyond any categories I control. The restful gaze of God's love, the eucharistic cup surrounded by eternal communion, the threefold touch of God from hands shaped in blessing, the hospitality of God laid out in the meticulous generosity of welcome - for once the overused epithet is appropriate - it is a 'stunning' achievement of human spiritual creativity.
The idea that beauty is an important category for theology has become an important recent emphasis in the way Christian theologians think of God. Beauty, along with truth and goodness appeal to that in us which retains the image of God. Jonathan Edwards called this the sense of divine things, which is the gift of grace that enables us to apprehend, appreciate and respond to the beauty of God. This icon draws me into a sense of divine things, and into a sense of the beauty of God's Holiness.
Christ has brought it to pass, that those that the Father has given him, should be brought into the household of God; that he and his Father and his people, should be as it were one society, one family; that the church should be as it were admitted into the society of the blessed Trinity.
A week or so ago I promised a blog on Jonathan Edwards and Jurgen Moltmann. Edwards the New England Calvinist would have puzzled at the icon, Moltmann loves it. I'll post a few excerpts from their writings on the Trinity soon. For now see a characteristically engaged sermon on the Trinity by Moltmann over here.