Russia Religion Subjects Old Testament Old Testament Trinity

Old Testament Trinity

This subject is taken from the Old Testament story of the hospitality of Abraham. Abraham was the first of the Hebrew patriarchs and a figure revered by the three great monotheistic religions. One day, he was sitting at his tent door in the Plain of Mamre, in the heat of the day, when three travellers approached and asked for shelter. Abraham invited the visitors to eat with him, not suspecting that they were angels. At the meal, one of them prophesied that Abraham would have a son. The prediction came true and Abraham’s wife Sarah gave birth to a boy called Isaac (Genesis 18: 1–16).

Christian theology interprets the meal of the three angels and the hospitality of Abraham as a prototype of the Last Supper and the establishment of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The episode is also regarded as proof of the Triune God. The positions of the angels on the icon, from left to right, follow the order of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The crossed halo above the central figure indicates Jesus Christ.

The biblical narrative illustrated on the background of icons of the Old Testament Trinity is also filled with Christian symbolism. The edifices shading God the Father represent His wisdom and divine house-building. The oak above the head of Christ is also the Tree of Life and a symbol of the Resurrection. The hill above the Holy Ghost symbolises the transport of the spirit.

The entire image is subordinated to the circular composition, in correspondence with the theological essence of the Trinity, which has no beginning and no end. The composition similarly recalls the circular nature of the liturgical calendar, reiterated by the colour harmony of the icon, which forms a circular colour spectrum.

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