Welcomed to the Table :: Andrei Rublev, “The Trinity”

image 3 - Rublev Trinity icon
Andrei Rublev, “The Trinity,” tempera; 1411 or 1425-27

One of the most mysteriously interesting passages of Scripture is Abraham and Sarah’s hosting of three unknown visitors in Genesis 18. These three guests show up from nowhere to affirm God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah, but also end up mercifully bargaining with Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Are these figures human visitors, angels, or a divine visitation? We are left with many questions about the episode, but it is clear that God is somehow present with Abraham and Sarah at their table through this episode. We are reminded through this story that God draws near to humanity to meet with us and share hospitality with us. This is profoundly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus our Messiah, who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In his well-known and beloved icon, Andre Rublev simultaneously depicts the story of Genesis 18 and the wonder of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three apparently angelic figures gather around a table, with a chalice and host on the middle. All of them have their hands extended in some way toward the center of the table. While various interpretations abound, the prevailing interpretations read the icon with the Father on the left, Jesus the Son in the middle (with hands most clearly extended toward the host and chalice and two finger representing the two natures of Christ as fully God and fully man), and Holy Spirit on the right. Details surround the three figures and there is much to take in. A subtlety of style and color beckons the viewer to slow down and enter into reflection and prayer, but also to enter into the beautiful mystery of God’s Triune presence. Through the redeeming work of Christ we, too, can enter into the wonderful eternal relationship and dance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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