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The Hospitality of Abraham Rublev c1425

The Russian mystics describe prayer as descending with the mind into the heart and standing there in the presence of god. The heart of god becomes united with the heart that prays, and thus knowing god becomes loving god, just as being known by god is being loved by god. From within this holy circle, the mystery of god is revealed to us.

It is the mystery of the three angels who appeared at the Oak of mamre, who ate the meal Sarah and Abraham generously offered to them, and who announced the unexpected birth of Isaac [genesis 18] This angelic appearance is the prefiguration of the divine mission by which god sends us his only son, so that we might dare to see and hear god, not in a vision, but in reality, resulting in the gift of new life through the spirit. Here the words of st john 3:16-17 God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For god sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

The tree of mamre becomes the tree of life, the house of Abraham becomes the dwelling place of god-with-us, and the mountain becomes the spiritual heights of prayer and contemplation The lamb that Abraham offered to the angels becomes the sacrificial lamb, chosen by god before the creation of the world, led to be slaughtered on cavalry and declared worthy to break the seven seals of the scroll. This sacrificial lamb becomes the center of the ikon, itself embraced by the chalice formed by the figures of father and the spirit. This image reminds us that through the chalice, Christians are brought into communion with the holy trinity. The son points to it with two fingers, indicating his mission to become the sacrificial lamb, human as well as divine, through the incarnation. The father, on the left, encourages the son with a blessing gesture.

The spirit, who holds the same staff of authority as the father and son, signifies by pointing to the rectangular opening in front of the altar that this divine sacrifice is a sacrifice for the salvation of the world. There is an atmosphere of love, freedom, timelessness, and rest, and the most intimate communion. This is achieved by the gentle attentiveness to each other - the joining of the eyes.

As you reflect, ask god to open your hearts to the language of this ikon, that it may teach you about your own journey towards god, your own part in this community of love, that you may hear and see any message meant for your own heart, that you may come to be conscious of the hospitality of god in your life.

Sr Sue Makin Summer 2002