The Way of Beauty Temples of God

Trinity by Rublev 1410 The Trinity by Andrei Rublev via Wiki Commons.

The feast of the Most Holy Trinity falls on this Sunday, one week after Pentecost. Ordinary time resumes with the Eighth Sunday of the liturgical year. The feast has two aspects: the outer and the inner, the objective and the subjective or personal.   

First, the outer or objective aspect. The Trinity is a mystery of faith, "one of the mysteries hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God," the Catechism teaches. It is true that traces of the Triune God have been left in creation and in the Old Testament. But the inmost mystery of the Trinity is inaccessible to reason alone.

To confirm belief in the tri-personal God, Christians profess the Creed and sign themselves in the name of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

Second, the inner, the subjective or personal aspect. Perhaps the most consoling and most beautiful truth about the Trinitarian dogma is captured by St. Paul in teaching the Corinthians and the extended Christian community:  "Don't you realize that you are God's temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred, and you are that temple" (1Cor 3:6-7). 

Each of us is a consecrated temple of God. For we were all baptized into one body. Regardless of accident of birth or of choices made, every person deserves to be treated with the dignity of a child of God.  As the Body of Christ, all the Church's members make each other's welfare their common care.

Desecration of the Temple

The violation of an adult or a minor for one's own sexual pleasure desecrates God's temple. The unborn-the developing fetus-deserves infinitely greater care than a household pet, a statement not as absurd as it seems. All we need do is contrast the laws against cruelty to animals to the few attached to aborting the life of a human fetus. Pets are protected under the law.  In most states, the child in the womb enjoys no such protection.

In some cloistered religious institutes, it is customary to bow the head slightly when encountering another as a reminder that each person is a temple of God.


Through Baptism, the enfleshed soul is made sacred.  We are consecrated and incorporated into the love of the Triune God and made members of Christ's Body. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given to build up the Body of Christ with its diverse ministries.  

The liturgy of Baptism of an infant is quite a rich ceremony filled with the symbolisms of the cross, white clothing, holy water, blessed salt and oil. Thus, the five senses of the child are consecrated, and, following the profession of faith by its godparents, the entire child is christened.

The doctrine of the indwelling of God rejects the false belief of New Age theories that asserts: 'I am God.'  I am a sacred vessel, not of myself, but because God dwells within me. The sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit are given as the baptismal graces.  These are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Each gift disposes us to docility in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

What Is Fear of the Lord?

The phrase, "fear of the Lord" is sometimes used in conjunction with the phrase, "the glory of the Lord."  Fear of the Lord occurs throughout the Bible. (Gen 42:18; Ex 1:17; 9:20; 18:21; Deut 5:29; 6:2; Ps 25:14; 102:15; 111:5; Prov 3:7; 24:21; 31:30; Eccl 5:7; 8:12; 12:13; Is 41:10; 50:10; Jer 5:24; Dan 6:26; Lk 1:50; Acts 10:2; Rev 15:4).

The noun fear, whose Latin counterpart is tremor, connotes emotional trepidation, and the adjective terrible, also from the Latin terribilis, has been imprecisely transliterated as terrible or dreadful.  These words impose on the phrase, fear of the Lord, not only a negative connotation but also a meaning opposed to its original intent. 

Fear of the Lord means awe of Divine Mystery connoting reverence at the mysterium, the "Holy, Holy, Holy" of God.  It causes the soul to shudder from its overpowering reality, and yet it draws the soul into the tremendum, a moment of rapture to it. God's absolute holiness is at once love, beauty, mercy, wonder–words incapable of being adequately expressed, but which we experience as fascinosum, unspeakable bliss. 

Fear of the Lord is awe, marvel, wonder, majesty, and astonishment–glory.   Filial fear refers to a fear of offending God because of His great glory. On this Trinity Sunday, the tri-personal God is celebrated as the pre-eminent model for all other relationships. Glory not only transcends every word, all speech, every category, and every expression of Jesus' hiddenness but also his manifestation.  And "we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:16).  Divine glory is God. 

More in The Way of Beauty

Rublev's Old Testament Trinity: the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah 

The icon of the Old Testament Trinity was painted by the Russian monk Andrei Rublev (1370-1430). He uses the Old Testament story of the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 18) as a point of reference pointing to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.

In the scripture narrative, the couple are hosts to the three angel-visitors at Mamre who will foretell the birth of Isaac to the elderly couple. The angels are seated at a table on which stands a cup with a sacrifice offering. The angels hold traveling staffs. Abraham and Sarah are not in the icon.   

The Icon Proper

The basic form of this icon representing the Trinity is a circle. It is seen in the bowed figure of the angels deferring to one another.  Their wings touch each other as a trinity, while the hands of the two outer angels lean toward the center angel who commands attention. The circular shape of the picture surrounds the cup and calls attention to it, the symbol of the Eucharist.  The angels wear blue and green in varying degrees of intensity to symbolize unity in color.  

The center angel is Jesus, clothed in strong, clear colors because of his coming in history.  He wears a magenta tunic with a gold ribbon draped over the shoulder under the cloak of solid blue-green.  Because human eyes have never seen the Father, Rublev has chosen indistinct hues of pale orange colored with a tint of blue-green for the Father's clothing.  

Wearing a green cloak over a tunic of azure blue, the Consoler-Spirit symbolizes life and sanctification. With the other two figures, Jesus blesses the cup with the stylized Eastern blessing.  The facial features of the three figures suggest a set of identical triplets marked by dignity and rare beauty. The raised eyes of the Father appear anxious because of the sacrifice his Son will accept.  The unity brought about by the clothing and circular form and motif of the composition reveals Rublev's masterful insight into the mystery of the tri-personal God.  

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The icon offers deep satisfaction because through color, form, and symbol, we grasp with delight the truth of the central mystery of Catholic Christian faith.  Its loveliness has captured the admiration of the Christian West, thereby surpassing abstract Trinitarian symbols.  The beauty, truth, and formal goodness of the icon invite one's contemplation and a resolve to live in the presence of the life-giving Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  One way to do this is carry about in our imagination this work of art that nourishes the life of prayer. 

Image credit: The Trinity by Andrei Rublev via Wiki Commons. 

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