I was recently reading “Gateway to the Trinity” by Tony Castle. It is based on Rublev’s Icon and has given me new insights which build on my reflections over the past few years.
The following are extracts from Chapters 3 and 4:
“Rublev is the first iconographer to use the structure of a circle in his design. If you look through a ring or some other circle so that it encompasses the three figures, you will discover how breathtakingly circular the arrangement is and that the centre of the circle comes where the two fingers of the central figure lay on the table…..
“Rublev, in designing the icon, uses the human tendency to look towards the right first – the human glance falls naturally to the right-hand side first. This inclination of the human eye is used to dramatic effect in the Icon, for the ‘movement’ of the Icon begins on the right hand side with the figure dressed in the ‘new life’ colours of blue and green. As your eye runs up the figure from foot to head, you are led on by the curvature of the body, the bowed head and the direction of the eyes, to the next figure which commands the centre of the Icon. We are not intended to stop on the right-hand side. Hardly have we taken in the colour of the clothes than we are directed on, almost impelled to move our eyes on round the circle. This impresses upon us that the Holy Spirit’s role is to involve us, then move us on, not to stay with himself. It is clear that we cannot derive full benefit from this Icon unless we begin with the right-hand figure. We cannot journey round the circle of love and be caught up in the very life of the Trinity unless we start the circle’s dynamic ‘movement’ with the Holy Spirit…..
“The Holy Spirit figure in the Icon invites us into the circle and reminds us that ‘Come’ is the essential prayer to direct to the Holy Spirit. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to come to dwell in us so that we can be directed to the Father through the Son and become caught up in the life of the Trinity….. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, at our invitation, then we are drawn into the family circle of the Trinity….. It is impossible to move to the next figure in the circle and acknowledge who it is unless one has welcomed the Holy Spirit within. ‘No one’, Paul tells us (1 Cor.12:3), ‘can say “Jesus is Lord” unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit’….. Primarily, one does not pray to the Holy Spirit, but for the Holy Spirit, with the invitation, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’. Even the movement within us, the grace to ask the Spirit to ‘Come’, springs from the action of God himself……. We are still free to say, ‘Come’ or not…………
“The first figure in the Icon’s circle directs to the Way. So the clear role of the Spirit is to come and set us on the way to the Father…… The inclination of the figure gives us much to meditate upon as it directs our attention to the next figure…… Can we humbly acknowledge our need to pray daily: “Come holy Spirit to work a new creation in me and direct me to the Way”?
Whilst reflecting on this reading, I found myself thinking that the “Come” must be a two-way utterance which isn’t really drawn out in this extract. Right at the end of the Bible, Revelation 22:17 says: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Let everyone who listens answer ‘Come!’ Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.” Which ‘Come’ comes first and which second? Maybe they are somehow simultaneous, but if not, then I think the first “Come” is from the Holy Spirit, and as we respond by saying ‘Come’ to the Spirit, so we are drawn into the circle – and round it, through the Son to the Father.
This insight has a very different feel from that of me coming straight towards the centre of the table, between the Father and the Spirit, which is what I have been focussing on for the past three years. There is more movement about it and a deeper involvement and participation.