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As a community I am sure you will all join me in giving praise and thanks to the most Holy Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes for the successful re-ordering of the Church sanctuary. All for the greater honour and glory of God. I was most edified and grateful for the many positive comments on the re-ordering and am so pleased that parishioners find it spiritually uplifting, prayerful, peaceful and aesthetically beautiful. In order to help parishioners to understand the meaning of the various items I give below a brief explanation of them, so you will see the thinking behind the symbol itself.
The whole ensemble - when viewed must be seen as a whole picture. It raises our minds to heavenly things, the glory of God, the Transcendent, the Beyond, the Cosmos, the mystery of the Eucharist.
ICON OF THE TRINITY
The icon depicts three persons in the order of the Creed: from left to right ‘I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. Of course we cannot really draw a picture of the three-who-are-one, anymore than we can work out scientifically the entire process of creation. The three beings, like mathematical symbols, are a sign of something greater and more real – drawing a picture hides the mystery as much as it displays it. However, a picture can draw our attention to the mystery and encourage us to explore further.
The most obvious ‘sign in the heavens’ is in the stars showing the ‘wings’ and halo of the centre figure. The Hourglass nebula is a double circle, or figure of eight, while the Egg nebula has two radiating blue wings. The ‘double’ nature of these stars is used as sign of the two natures of Christ – somehow God and man, heaven and earth come together – the symbol is a marker to introduce us to the wonder – how can this be? The colours on the left suggest the origin of life – depth of colour in the magenta of the Cat’s eye spiral and the soft ‘towers’ of the Eagle nebula: in the traditional icon the figure representing the father often has a house behind him – “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.’ The silver (actually white gold) tones on the right suggest the ‘wings of a dove, covered with gold and silver’ and the appearance of the Holy Spirit above the water. The Holy Spirit breathes on the waters and animates creation.
The next layer down is the level of the created world and the appearance of human life. The clothes of the three are based on photographs of the earth from the Landsat satellite. Their style of dress is based on the passage from the Bible – they wear the clothes of a desert dweller – the turbans and robes of the tribes among whom Abraham dwelt. The red-gold waves of the ‘Father’s’ garments are based on the wave form of dunes in the African Namib desert – they also remind us that the children of Israel got to know God in the desert. His headgear is based on the mineral rich area around the Khan river where uranium deposits are found. The silver sheen’s of the ‘Spirit’s’ garments are based on the T’ien Shan – the Celestial mountains – on the silk road linking east and west. The central figure representing the ‘Son’ reflects Incarnation and the counterpoint of two natures, again. The shirt is a view of the New York suburbs from space, reminding us of Christ’s mission in busy cities: yet this is covered by a cloak of the oghurd (star) dunes of the Libyan Sahara, with a head covering formed from the seif dunes of the Arabian region of the Sahara.
They all hold staffs. At their simplest, these are travellers staffs, but staffs have always been decorated and developed in various cultures as a sign of spiritual power, such as our own Bishop’s crook. The two figures on the outside who represent the unborn heavenly persons of the Trinity, simply have a suggestion of rays coming from heaven into their hands, but the central figure has a staff based on computer generated images of DNA – the building blocks of the human body – spiralling into a staff.
The centre of the composition is a table – the holy table. It is gold and shiny, reminding us that the ark of the covenant was gilded entire, and we still gild the inside of the tabernacle and the chalice as a sign of the holy. On the table are simply bread and wine in a chalice. In early icons of the three visitors to Abraham and his wife, the table is often set for a full feast. The monk saint Andrew Rublev, however, reduced this to the simplest sign possible of the Eucharist – the calf’s head in a chalice, sign of the sacrifice of the Mass. This icon simply shows the bread and wine, the elements of the Mass.
The artist has also drawn something else not regularly done in the icon – drawn the table in ‘real time’ perspective. Normally in the icon physical objects are drawn in reverse perspective – so that perspective opens out into an unknown world inside the icon, simultaneously making the experience more intimate, the people closer and inviting you in. This is what has been done in the chairs and footstools, so that there is a paradox between the reversed perspective on the footstools – which shows you the persons of the Trinity do not belong to this world, and the ‘real time’ perspective springing out from the Lord in the centre which shows the incarnation – Christ became man and lived in real time.
Finally the icon has written on the table E=mc2, the formula Einstein discovered – energy =mass (m) light (c) squared. A group of us, among whom were scientists, decided that the nearest we could get in mathematical terms to a sign of the Trinity acting in creation was this, so consequently we thought of it as Einstein’s discovery of a ‘Word’ of God.
Sincerely yours in Jesus and Mary,
Mike Rizzio, SOLT
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* - J.M.J. + O.B.T. + M.G.R. stands for: Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
O Beata Trinitas; St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael