In my last series (“God so loved“) I mentioned that one of the reasons Jesus was born on Christmas day was so God could bring us to Himself, into the “Divine Dance” that the Father and Son have enjoyed since before the foundation of the world (John 1:1; 17:23-24).
Here’s an amazing story about a piece of iconic art that reveals how the early church fathers saw their relationship with Christ in God. The following excerpt comes from Richard Rohr’s book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation.
The explanation is lengthy so I’m only providing the salient parts here. (You’ll have to get the book!) You don’t have to be Orthodox or Catholic (which I’m not either one) in order to appreciate this icon and what it means to us as Rohr explains here:
“Created by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev in the fifteenth century, The Trinity is the icon of icons for many of us—and, as I would discover years after first encountering it, even more invitational than most.”
“There’s a story told that one artist became a follower of Jesus just from gazing at this icon, exclaiming, “If that’s the nature of God, then I’m a believer.” And I can fully understand this….
“The Holy One in the form of Three—eating and drinking, in infinite hospitality and utter enjoyment between themselves. If we take the depiction of God in The Trinity seriously, we have to say, “In the beginning was the Relationship”….
This icon yields more fruits the more you gaze on it. Every part of it was obviously meditated on with great care: the gaze between the Three; the deep respect between them as they all share from a common bowl. And note the hand of the Spirit pointing toward the open and fourth place at the table! Is the Holy Spirit inviting, offering, and clearing space? If so, for what?”…
As magnificent as this icon—and this fellowship—is…there’s something missing. They’re circling a shared table, and if you look on the front of the table there appears to be a little rectangular hole painted there. Most people just pass right over it, but art historians say that the remaining glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table!”…
It’s stunning when you think about it—there was room at this table for a fourth . The observer. You!
At the heart of Christian revelation, God is not seen as a distant, static monarch but—as we will explore together—a divine circle dance , as the early Fathers of the church dared to call it (in Greek perichoresis , the origin of our word choreography ). God is the Holy One presenced in the dynamic and loving action of Three. But even this Three-Fullness does not like to eat alone. This invitation to share at the divine table is probably the first biblical hint of what we would eventually call “salvation.” (Kindle Edition, Loc. 399-434)
I thought Rohr’s book is much needed in this hour to help us regain what got lost with Post-Enlightenment Christianity. Tragically, we gave up this mystery of the Trinity, exchanging living in this divine embrace for stainless steel religion and deistic Western rationalism and naturalism. We lost the richness of the true nature of God and His heart for fellowship with us. Bible text, exegesis, and systematic theology became our god instead of Presence (see John 5:39-40). But now (ironically, at least in part because of advances in quantum science), we have the mental grid for the “greater things” that God has always had for us. We’re starting to believe again. The Holy Spirit is bringing a fresh wind of revelation to an ancient truth, bringing the intimate, yet transcendent, ever-unfolding mystery of the Divine Dance back into our practical, everyday living!
I’ve also included a video clip where Rohr is explaining the artwork. You don’t have to theologically agree with everything he’s saying here. The only point that matters is, this painting is a wonderful illustration of where the Bible clearly says we’re seated, right now, in heavenly places in this Divine Dance! This is how much God loves you!
Beloved of God, can you see yourself there…right now?
6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Eph.2:6 NLT)