God is three, and God is one: he is not eternal solitude but the eternal love that is the basis of the relationships between the three Persons and the foundation of all being and life. The unity that this love creates—the Trinitarian unity—is a higher unity than the unity of the building blocks of matter that are indivisible on their lowest level. There is nothing rigid in the highest unity: it is love. The most beautiful picture of this mystery was given us by Andrei Rublev in the fifteenth century in his celebrated icon of the Trinity. It does not portray the eternal mystery of God in his own self, for who would dare do that? It shows this mystery mirrored in a historical event, the visit of three men to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:1-33). Abraham soon realizes that these are not ordinary men and that in them God himself is visiting him. Even in the Old Testament text, the number three forms a mysterious bridge into the oneness of God: there are three of them, in whom Abraham adores the One, and this enabled Christians to see this narrative as a mirror of the Trinity from an early date. Rublev’s icon makes the many dimension of this mysterious event wonderfully clear but preserves its mysterious character while doing so.
I should like to mention only one trait in this rich icon, namely, the surroundings of the event, which also help express the mystery of the Persons. First, we see the oaks of Mamre, which Rublev gathers into one single tree, which now portrays the tree of life—the tree of life that consists in nothing other than the triune love that created the world, sustains it and redeems it, and is the source of all life. Then we see the tent, Abraham’s house, which reminds us of John 1”14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt [set up his tent] among us…” The body of the incarnate God has itself become the tent, the house, in which God dwells and in which God becomes our dwelling, our resting place. Lastly, we see Abraham’s gift: the “calf, tender and good” of Genesis is replaced here by the chalice, the sign of the Eucharist, the sign of the gift in which God bestows himself: “Love, sacrifice, immolation precede the act of the creation of the world, and are the source of this act.” The tree—the tent—the chalice. They show us the mystery of God; they allow us as it were to look into his heart, into the triune love. It is this God that we celebrate. It is in this God that we rejoice. He is the true hope of our world. Amen.