Monday, June 01, 2015

A Portrait of the Trinity


I have a vague idea of seeing this in southern Spain but I am sure of its location. Snotty Protestants might have a difficulties with it but we Catholics are made of more enlightened stuff. Though one might prefer not to portray the Trinity, except possibly in an abstract way, of the Athanasian Creed one has to remember any depiction is merely analogous, unless one is presenting an actual happening like the appearance of the three Angels at the Oak Mamre.

Defining God in human terms, even as 'He', is always dangerous, unless revelation itself does. defining God as 'she' as those sillier Anglicans want to do, is just to denigrate revelation and further move into paganism.


We certainly know what the Second Person looked like: a man like us in all things but sin. The First Person is a little more difficult, Jesus names him as Father, Genesis uses similar language by describing as as source and origin of all that is, but yet there is a danger in making finite the infinite.

The Third Person is even more difficult to portray, he appears as a dove at the Baptism of Jesus and as a rushing wind and tongues of fire at Pentecost but actually his presence is made known in his works, through his many gifts and through his fruit.

I like the idea that he, or rather his works are portrayed by Mary, the highest honour of our race. It is Mary that we see the work of the Spirit, by his power she is conceived Immaculate, by his over-shadowing she conceives the Eternal Word, by his presence she has before her both on earth and in heaven the Beatific Vision and by his power she is taken up body and soul into heaven.

Through her Son, in the Spirit, she is united to the Father. I suspect critics of this statue might be less inclined to criticise an image the Trinity surrounded by all the saints yet the saints unlike Mary have to wait to be united to their bodies, they too look to Mary as the source of grace.

What is good about this statue is it reminds us of the fundamental doctrine of divinisation, of us dwelling in perfect union with the All Holy Trinity that Jesus promises and is the end of the Christian life.

For me one of the problems is the little Napoleonic eagle-like dove roosting on the Cross, yet the artist is presumably trying to indicate or reinforce the presence of Spirit hovering over Mary.

Of course what we can say about Mary, we can say about the Church so we can regard this statue as the Church too, even so it is an analogy and one way of thinking about the Trinity.

9 comments:

Chloe said...

"He who sees Me sees the Father" gives us a fair idea of how to depict Him, I think.

Matthew Celestis said...

It does rather remind me of Leornardo Boff's bizarre claim that Blessed Mary is the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.

viterbo said...

"I suspect critics of this statue might be less inclined to criticise an image the Trinity surrounded by all the saints yet the saints unlike Mary have to wait to be united to their bodies, they too look to Mary as the source of grace." Excellent point.

In an old 'unaggiornamentoed' missal I have, for Trinity Sunday, there is a wee essay on the the ways in which the Holy Trinity has been depicted over the centuries. Since the 16th century it was forbidden to represent the Holy Spirit in human form, whereas in the past He had been represented as a little child but by the 15th century he was represented as being of 'ripe age' like the Father. Also, in 1628 it was forbidden to represent the Holy Trinity with the 'monstrous picture of three faces on one body'. In the picture for the Sunday the wings of the dove depicting the Holy Ghost reach to the lips of the Father and the Son on either side.

Delia said...

Actually, it's in the Czech Republic (Jaromerice nad Rokytnou), early 18th century. Fascinating!

Physiocrat said...

The stained glass east window at St Mary Magdalen's is surely a good depiction of the Trinity? Where has the picture gone that used to be on this blog?

Supertradmum said...

Nice....and we all have the Indwelling of the Trinity from baptism, so I think this statue reminds us of the great Indwelling in the Theotokos-pure and innocent.

DrAndroSF said...

Although Boff's suggestion does go beyond the pale dogmatically, in terms of psychology and the history of Catholic spirituality, he has a point. One way to explain the huge role and popularity of the Theotokos in Catholicism vs the relatively formal and occasional role of the Third Person of the Trinity is that not only is she an accessible human person (as opposed to a mysterious Divine Person imaged by fire, wind and dove) but very many of the powers and works of the Holy Spirit come to be associated with her in the popular, and even formally theological, Catholic mind and experience.

The statue reminds me of Carl Jung's psychological assessment of the Assumption proclamation of the 1950's as the most significant religious event since the Reformation because it functionally --though not dogmatically-- included the Virgin Mother within the circle of the Godhead, makign the Trinity a Quaternity (psychologically and mythically, not formally.)

And even theologically, if you assume that she is the most completely deified of human creatures, again, not far off.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Just returned from Portugal where we have had amazing Marian days - a visit to Fatima, a visit by the pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima to our diocese of Viseu - streets of our local town jam-packed for the event and then it came to our parish where in the month of May the rosary is recited each evening in the Parish Church and each of the five chapels in the surrounding hamlets. On Sunday we celebrated the Trinity in the morning - church jam-packed - and in the evening girls carried the five statues of our Lady on heavy floats for over a mile and more from each of the chapels to the Parish Church where again jam-packed we had the Mass for the feast of the Visitation followed by candlelight procession of the then six Madonnas around the village.

The overwhelming message is of Our Lady as a role model for girls and mothers. Is not the neglect of Our Lady in the Protestant world the cause of ridiculous speculations about God the Father?

viterbo said...

@DrAndroSF: Jung was a neo-pagan-self-worshipping hater of Catholicism/Christ. Jung saw himself and his kind as the absolutely necessary replacement for the Catholic priest. Self professed 'gnostic' Jung's work is one long new-age/lie replacement for Truth. He demanded his clients/patients give up their Catholicism whilst courting Catholic priests so he could pick their brains. His first apprentice to Jungism klled himself in a convenient sacrifice to Jungs big fat lies about the 'solar man'. His 'Mary' and her 'Assumption' was significant to him because he, from his protestant neo-pagan POV saw a pagan goddess in her (anti-Catholic), not the Immaculate Conception. Jung's legacy is one of the most damaging of the 20th century - he is the 'father of the new-age'. Let's not forget this is the bloke who said, 'The Fuhrer must be allowed to be himself', as he replaced an exiled Freud and watched his books burn. (I'm no Freud fan, BTW).