Today was Trinity Sunday at Pilgrimage United Church of Christ. As such, Pastor Kim presented an exquisite lesson on the Christian Trinity, Father-Son-Spirit. She employed visual aids, uncommon in Protestant churches — including a Russian Orthodox icon, a particular rarity for a Protestant congregation. My mind seems to be hardwired for engaging the spiritual through the visual or artistic. Hence, I’m hopelessly incapable of keeping the first and second commandments (Exodus 20:3-4). Idolatrous or not, I was completely awake and engaged throughout Pastor Kim’s sermon today. Many of the abstract, triangular or circular images representing Father-Son-Spirit did not even begin to convey the full, active immensity of the Divine Presence. A few representations, such as the three lego-men, were jarring and almost blasphemous. These representations were all too rigid and mechanical, much like the tin-eared sales-pitch-faith of some Evangelical Protestants. Given my biases in favor of natural, curving forms, the Irish three-leaved clover and three interlacing spirals did inspire me towards meditation upon the incomprehensible Triune Mystery.
Finally, Pastor Kim settled on the Icon of the Trinity by the 15th century Russian monk, Andrei Rublev. This famous icon depicts the table of hospitality offered by Abraham and Sarah to the three angels beneath the trees of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-15). Christian tradition equates the three angels as the three persons of the Trinity in human form. Pastor Kim described how icons are not ordinary, decorative pictures, but rather objects to spend time with in meditation or prayer. I tend to think of icons as windows, one does not pray to an icon but rather prays while looking through the icon. The process of creating the icon is also an exercise of prayerful meditation.
In Rublev’s icon, the angels represent the three persons of the Christian Trinity, with the Father shown at the left with head held upright and clothed in royal purple (faded). At center, with head bowed towards the Father, sits the Son, clothed in red, representing humanity, and blue, representing divinity. At right, also bowed towards the Father, sits the Spirit, clothed in Divine blue and fertile Earth green. Pastor Kim emphasized the apparent conversation and fellowship among the three, with an empty space left at their table to include the believer.
I have long struggled to reconcile my experienced Goddess-faith with the Christian faith of my family and neighbors. The mechanical, mass-produced, industrial manner in which Christianity is presented in America has been a stumbling block to me. Today, my friends at Pilgrimage helped me to see that there is a “pre-industrial” living Being at the heart of Christianity. If Christ were not alive and infusing his life’s-breath into the church, Christianity would not have lasted 2,000 years. Yet, I’m convinced my life’s-breath comes from someone else, Divine Mother. Evangelical Christianity is correct in many things, but it is wrong on the matter of individual free will. You do not choose your God, your God chooses you, much like Abraham was chosen by the Hebrew Father-God, not vice-versa.
I have been working on my own icon of the Great Mother. Rather serendipitously, my icon shows a Triune Deity, Mother Cybele seated in the center, the male lion (i.e., the king) at the left, and the lioness (Spirit) at the right. The Trinity may not be unique to Christianity; perhaps the universal human longing for the Divine tends toward the number 3. The number 3 appears even in religions with thousands of Gods and Goddesses. In Hinduism, there is Brahma-Creator, Vishnu-King, and Siva-Spirit. The ancient Irish and Celts had a Triune Goddess, sometimes referenced in the modern world as Maiden-Mother-Crone. Finally, the extinct faith of the Greeks and Romans had three kings, Zeus of the sky, Poseidon of the sea, and Hades of the grave.