Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Trinitarian Labyrinth

Earliest drawing of the Shield of the Trinity, c 1210

Two of the blogs I've mentioned here before, Greenpatches and A Letter From Home, have been discussing how to draw a trinitarian labyrinth, starting with a Y shape. Below is my rather rough attempt: (please look at the more elegant version in A Letter From Home!)

Drawing and musing on that Y shape as a symbol of the Trinity reminded me of the ancient diagram known as the Shield of the Trinity - I've put a very early example at the top of this post. Here are some other versions (from the same source, good old Wikipedia):

At first glance such a diagram might look very angular, geometric, logical - attributes which perhaps we might not immediately associate with the labyrinth. But the Shield is an attempt, through senses and symbol, to engage with a mystery impossible to grasp with words. By tracing the curves of the labyrinth over it we get a sense of the perichoresis - the 'round dance' of the Trinity - which will engage the heart and remind us that we are approaching a mystery of love: love poured out; a love we are invited to enter, to share, and to mirror in our relationships.

Try superimposing the labyrinth over the shield... there's a beautiful balance between what is known and unknown; what can be said and not said. The dots coincide with words non est (is not). As Gregory of Nyssa wrote: God's name is not known; it is wondered at. And yet... the tips of the lines of the Y point to names by which the Divine Persons are known - names of loving relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the heart of the labyrinth, the centre in which we rest, is simply DEUS - GOD.

Oh, and am I alone in thinking the Y labyrinth looks a little like an ear? (Remember the little girl dancing at the station?) Listen... 'I have called you by name' (Isaiah 43:1). 'Will you join the dance?'

Finally, I can't think about the Trinity without recalling the Rublev icon:

Here too we could gently trace a labyrinth, or simply a spiral, as a way of entering into the icon. Starting with the circle formed by the faces and bodies of the three Persons we move inwards. At the centre of the spiral would be the Son's two fingers (the humanity and divinity of Christ) pointing down towards earth, and to the cup of sacrifice. 'He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.' (Philippians 2:7)