Charles C. Twombly – Humility and the Desire for the Other in a Russian Icon

To the right is an icon, a Russian icon.  During the Middle Ages, Russia (as we might call it today) was out of the European loop.  It was more linked to the Byzantine Empire and Asia than to Europe.  But this icon, painted (or written) by the great iconographer, Andrei Rublev, is dated around the beginning of the fifteenth century and therefore falls within our time-line.

Let’s look at it.   It’s sometimes called “The Old Testament Trinity” or “The Hospitality of Abraham.”   It’s a representation of God, but what we actually see are three angels, very feminine ones at that.  So where’s God?  For the Orthodox Christians of the East, God could not be represented at all, at least in his eternal being.  God is a spirit; he’s invisible.  So we have three angels instead.  The story of the three mysterious visitors in Genesis, chapter 18, gives us warrant to call them an image of God because the word of the Lord comes through their mouths in such a way that God himself is said to speak. Continue reading “Charles C. Twombly – Humility and the Desire for the Other in a Russian Icon”