During Jesus’ “Last Supper” with his disciples, they celebrated the Passover meal, a remembrance of the supernatural Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. The ceremony is brimming with symbolism meant to lead participants into an appreciation of God’s faithfulness and power as well as an expectation of his tangible presence. During this extraordinary commemoration, Jesus spoke these mysterious words to his disciples:

“…. And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:16-21 NKJV

His words reveal a life-changing truth about our connection to the unseen world. His words are simple, yet complex and difficult to grasp. They disclose that Jesus will enable his disciples to more fully experience the relationship they have observed him enjoying with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

So, does our daily experience of inclusion with his life turn out to be as straightforward as these words suggest? Hardly — all Christians are perplexed by and marvel at the mystery of the Trinity. Daily interaction with God as more than one person is rarely crisply delineated in our experience. For that reason, familiarizing ourselves with this mystery is worth pursuing.

Indulge me as I share this story:

When I lived in Washington DC, I had a close friend who lived with her parents. The interior of their home disclosed a mystical world crowded with ancient tapestries, paintings, religious icons, and samovars. She told me these objects were inherited from both sets of her grandparents who were exiled along with other Czarist associates during the Communist takeover in 1917. Her family continued the Russian Orthodox practices of their ancestors. During one visit, she explained that Orthodox icons were not idols, but images designed to bring the viewer into a worship experience. At the time, I was skeptical of her claims.

In subsequent years I’ve developed appreciation for ancient Christian practices that hold rich symbolism (such as the Passover meal). I’ve asked myself, “was my friend right to hold that icons serve a greater function than being admired for their aesthetic beauty?”

Spiritual Practice:

I invite you to explore aspects of an Orthodox icon with me as a way to further appreciate the mystery of the Trinity. This icon entitled “Holy Trinity” was painted by 15th Century Russian Orthodox monk Andrei Rublev. It depicts Abraham’s three visitors from Genesis 18. Since today’s text is about our participation in the Trinity, try using this icon to help you reflect on the words of Jesus in John 14. Here is a 17 minute audio narrative explaining the purpose of icons in general along with ways you might incorporate the Rublev icon in your contemplation of the Trinity. Another illustrated explanation of the layout of the icon itself as well as its intended position in a church building provides additional insights.