Trinity Icon Closeup

Today  we commemorate the feast of Andrei Rublev, a monk and iconographer.  Why do we remember him so fondly this day? He was generally acknowledged as Russia’s greatest iconographer, but his significance may have more to do with the nature of icons.

He was born around 1365 near Moscow.  While very young he entered the monastery of the Holy Trinity and in 1405 he transferred to the Spaso- Andronikov monastery where he studied iconography with Theophanes, the Greek,  and the monk Daniel. Shown above is one of his most famous works called The Holy Trinity or The Hospitality of Abraham.  The later title refers to the story in Genesis 18:1-8 which relates the story of Abraham’s hospitality toward three angels.

Icons, a word derived from the Greek for image, play a central role in the spirituality of Orthodox Christianity and actually in the spirituality of the whole of the Christian community. As more and more Christians become aware of the true nature of icons their veneration (honor) has gained popularity among an ever widening circle of Christian communities.  “They seek to provide immediate access to the spiritual and the divine unmediated by the human, historical imagination.”1  Think about that.  What is meant by “unmediated” or by the “human and historical imagination.”

In discussing the “experience’ of the prophets Rabbi Abraham Heschel in his classic work The Prophets states that “A person’s perception depends upon his experience , upon his assumptions, categories of thinking, degrees of sensitivity , environment, and cultural atmosphere.”  In other words “a person will notice what he is conditioned to see” . 2 The prophets perception, on the other hand, was conditioned by their experience of inspiration, that is their direct experience of God himself unfiltered by their perceptions derived from human history.

Therefore, icons are very much akin to prophetic utterances as they provide a means for those who meditate upon to directly experience God. We experience the message of the icon and use it as one would use a door to open into an experience of God himself.

The icon is two dimensional and despite being an image of someone it is not a “physical portrait”.  In contrast western art, especially since the renaissance, typically seeks to represent figures or events so that the viewer might better imagine them.

“For Andrei Rublev, “writing” an icon was a spiritual exercise.” 3  It involved the preparation of the surface, applying the painted and precious metal background and then creating the image, first outlining it in red. Throughout this process Andrei would recite the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on  me”.  Like the prophets who went before him he was through his art creating a window into the divine unfettered by the preconceived notions of human history.

Each one of us is also an icon of God as we are made in his image. Orthodox spirituality in particular emphasizes the crafting of our minds and bodies in order to bring them into such a state that we are perfectly aligned with the divine.  The Orthodox refer to this as theosis.

To venerate (honor, not worship) an icon is to find some of the ineffable beauty that is God, that is manifest in Christ and the saints, and also in each one of us.

In addition to the utterances of prophets and the art of iconographers holy scripture makes reference to another vehicle by which a door to the divine  can be found.  That is incense.  Its use as a means of achieving theosis is actually sanctioned by Saint Paul himself, no less, in his second letter to the Corinthians.

In Chapter 2, verses 14-17 , one of the lessons appointed to be read in honor of Andrei Rublev,  the holy Apostle tells us:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

To view other icons created by Andrei Rublev please follow this link:

Wikipedia Andrei Rublev



  1.  Holy Women, Holy Men, Church Pension Fund (2010) page 196.
  2. Heschel, The Prophets, Harper and Row (New York, 1962) at page 222
  3. Note 1 supra. 
  4. A Reproduction of The Trinity by the Reverend Charles Davis now hangs in Seibels Chapel, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, South Carolina.








BALTO Resurrected?



(A Post Today January 25, 2016 | By on Faith and Science Seeking Understanding – See more at: raises the same question I did about four months ago  I felt it was worth re-upping Balto. And Emily Hylden’s response: Hope of Things Not Seen ( 28 September 2015)

BALTO – An ICON of Canine Magnificence

A dear friend, and priest of the Church, recently posted a picture of herself with a statue of Balto in Central Park in the Borough of Manhattan. Using Balto as a backdrop she communicates to us all the uncanny ability to see an icon in the most ordinary of things. I suspect she knew when she posted the picture that Balto’s accomplishments were legendary and that his service brought about the inspiration for the annual sled race commonly called the “Iditarod”.  I think Balto is a true Icon in that his statue represents more than a tribute to a husky sled dog.  It shows something inspired by the divine.  Balto did what many of us humans would shrink from doing and that is he was able to navigate near whiteout conditions (a snow storm) to deliver a serum desperately needed for a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. With commitment and bravery Balto guided his team of sled dogs through the blinding snow to bring relief to human suffering from a dread disease.  Such bravery and fortitude challenges our notions of what it means to have a “soul”. Is it possible that our theology has erred in determining that our “best friends” simply do not have a soul?

Taken from Wikipedia:

Balto (1919 – March 14, 1933) was a black and white Siberian husky sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. The run is commemorated by the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Balto was named after the Sami explorer Samuel Balto. Balto died of old age at 14.

Balto proved himself on the Iditarod trail, saving his team in the Topkok River. Balto was also able to stay on the trail in near whiteout conditions; Kaasen stated he could barely see his hand in front of his face. Balto’s team did their leg of the run almost entirely in the dark. The final team and its sledder were asleep when Balto and Kaasen made it to the final stop, so Kaasen decided to continue on. At Nome, everybody wanted to thank Kaasen at first, but he suggested giving fame to Balto as well.

May God look with favor on those animals in service to mankind especially our canines.  Who among you could perform such a feat?

As for me, my, now deceased, springer spaniel was one of the most loyal and loving of creatures.  May she rest in peace.  An may God have mercy on our souls.

Saint Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts

A Reblog from the good offices of The Reverend Emily Hylden and the Living Chruch:

Trinity Church Boston


Remembering Phillips Brooks
Daily Devotional • January 23
By the Rev. Dr. Edward Ambrose

God blessed the Episcopal Church and beyond when he called Phillips Brooks as diocesan of Massachusetts. In fact, God granted Bishop Brooks empowerment similar to the strength which Jonah received when Jonah finally accepted his godly calling to Ninevah.  Thus, the quotation from the Book of Jonah is appropriate for Phillips Brooks whose feast we celebrate today.

Brooks wrote that his only ambition was “to be a parish priest and, though not much of one,  [I] would as a college president be still less.” Despite his humble self-assessment, Bishop Brooks created architecturally inspiring churches which enabled congregations to lift up their hearts to God in prayer. His liturgical inspiration was similarly effective. Thus, as a bishop, architect and liturgist, Phillips Brooks always remained a true parish priest in his heart. When he died, he received a funeral similar to the rites reserved for kings, attended by representatives of many denominations.
Just like the great work, Trinity Church, Boston, in which he had a heavy hand, his introducing Helen Keller to both Anne Sullivan and to Christianity is a testament to the lasting impact Bp. Brooks made on American Christianity, though his work was much behind the scenes.

Jonah 3:1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. 6When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.7Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

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LAUD , Wiliiam AB Canterbury 1645

One of the hardest things for a parent to do is discipline a child.  We have all heard the saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” but who among us would actually use a rod of any sort to discipline our children?  But discipline them we must even if the discipline is couched as a positive nonphysical reinforcement rather than a negative physical one.  When we do this we do it not out of anger or hate but rather out of love and in the hopes of restoring the child to a right path or a path leading to health and prosperity.

And even parents are “children”- children of God.  Our heavenly father must at times also discipline us.  And while we find this discipline uncomfortable and maybe painful in a metaphorical sense the scripture assures us that while “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Who among us has not from time to time realized that we have allowed our actions to become excessive to the point of hurting ourselves and others and then found ourselves enduring discomfort as we experience the steps necessary to correct what has gone amiss?  The scripture further instructs us on how to deal with this discomfort by “lifting our drooping hands and strengthening our week knees, making our paths straight so that what was lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed.”

As we experience the Lord’s discipline let us see it not as “punishment” but rather as a form of reconciliation and healing bringing about growth toward God.

The Letter to the Hebrews: Chapter 12

5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?–“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,

13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

The scripture passage cited above is appointed as one of the lessons to be read in commemoration of the life and ministry of William Laud an Archbishop of Canterbury whose feast day is today.  Archbishop Laud was known to have utilized discipline, perhaps excessively at times, to reform the practices of the Church of England and protect it from what he feared was a form of heresy in lapsed practices.  William Laud died in 1645.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton



Today, January 4, is the feast day of Elizabeth Ann Seton the founder of the Sisters of Charity.  In this respect Mother Seton represents a number of things.  She represents the first American to be canonized by the Vatican.  She represents the founding of the first community of sisters in the United States.  She also represents a woman who was a wife, a widow at a young age, a single mother, an educator, a social activist and a spiritual leader.  She endured a turbulent childhood and suffered severe bouts of depression.  To survive she immersed herself in poetry, piano lessons, and devoted participation in the activities of the Episcopal Church.  

With respect to her devotion to the Episcopal Church she represents a ecumenical bridge between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  Having lost her husband at an early age she became interested in the Roman Catholic Church while on a trip to Italy seeking  a cure for her husband’s tuberculosis.  After his death she returned to the United States and found herself the victim of extreme opposition to her new found religious leanings.  Due to the ostracism of friends and family she turned to the Roman Catholic clergy of New York City for assistance in caring for an raising her five children.  

In 1806 she met Father Louis Dubourg, S.S. (The Society of Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic Society of Apostolic Life  named for the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris in turn named for St. Sulpitius the Pious, where they were founded). Father Dubourg wanted to start a community of women religious patterned after the French Daughters of Charity.  In 1809 Elizabeth Ann took vows and became “Mother Seton” to a small community of seven women dedicated to teaching.  In 1810 the community opened Saint Joseph’s Free School to educate needy girls.  The Sisters intertwined social ministry, education, and religious formation in all their varied works.  

In the publication of the Episcopal Chruch titled Holy Women, Holy Men a reading from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is prescribed.  That is Luke 14:15-23.  In this reading Jesus relates the story of a man who gave a banquet and invited many guests.  When the banquet was ready he sent his servant to tell each of the guest to come the banquet was ready.  But each invited guest in turn refused to come for one reason or another.  Being told by the servant that the invited guests refused to come the man then ordered that the servant to go out into the streets and lanes and to bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind, and lame.  When the servant had done this he reported back that there was still room in the house for more so the man commanded that he was to go out to the highways and the hedges and compel people to come in so that the house might be filled.  

In this scripture we see that human beings who suppose they highly prize the thought of sharing God’s kingdom may in fact be rejecting the appeal from him to act so that they may be able to share in it. For sometimes the love of material and temporal things block our ability to find the kingdom.  Mother Seton did not reject the invitation but instead embraced it so as to enable her to share in God’s kingdom through her devoted service and charity toward others.  Let us be careful to listen for the invitation to share in God’s kingdom through our own devoted service and works of charity toward others. 

Luke 14:15-23

15 When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God! 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited , “Come: for all is now ready. 17 But they all alike began to make excuses.  The first said to him , I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them: I pray you , have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.  21 So the servant came and reported this to his master.  Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room’. 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and the hedges, and compel people to come in , that m house may be filled. 24 ‘For I tell you none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’


“‘The Science Is Settled’ and Other Self-Serving Falsehoods,” By Bruce Frohnen

I am presenting a view by  law professor Bruce Frohnen with which I do not necessarily agree.  It is good to consider differing views.  The professor does not necessarily dispute the conclusion that we are suffering climate disruption but rather he is concerned that dissenting voices are being bullied into silence when we should remain open to points which they make.   PN


Nomocracy In Politics

For some years, now, we have been hearing that global warming is a settled scientific fact. It has reached the point where there are calls for ejecting scientists who express doubts about this revealed truth from their positions within the scientific community. At the same time, various stories have leaked to the press (or rather leaked out through alternative media despite the determined efforts of the mainstream media) that show attempts at exaggeration and even fabrication of evidence to bolster the environmentalist ideology. From the “climategate” emails to congressional charges that NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, has been engaging in biased “corrections” of data in order to gloss over a fifteen-year hiatus in the supposed trend of global warming, the reputation of the official scientific “community” has been coming under attack.

Being no scientist myself, I hazard no definitive statement, here, regarding the specifics involved in proving global…

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