Holy Trinity Icons
The religious icon of the Holy Trinity has always had a special meaning for Christian believers. However, if you have ever been to Eastern Orthodox churches, you have probably noticed that these holy icons are not all the same. In fact, there are two major variations of this important image. Thus, some Eastern Orthodox icons of the Holy Trinity depict three angels, while others show us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove.
The Old Testament Trinity
The Old Testament Trinity is the most recognizable variation of the Holy Trinity religious icons largely due to Andrei Rublev and the icon he painted between 1408 and 1425. This image is based on the biblical story about angels who appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-15). According to this narrative, the icon depicts three angels sitting under the tree, around the table with the calf’s head in the cup placed in its center. This head symbolizes the Lamb of God; and the lamb, as you know, is a symbol for Christ. In this way, the meaning of this religious icon is sacrificial love.
As for the angels of the Old Testament Trinity icon, they represent the Father (to the left), with His right hand blessing the cup, the Son (in the center) depicted in the clothes that are often seen in the icons of Jesus Christ, ready to die as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, and the Holy Spirit (to the right) who completes the composition, confirming the high meaning of sacrificial love.
It is also worth noting that there are other versions of this image. In addition to three angels, such religious icons may also depict scenes of the servant killing the calf, Sarah cooking dough, Abraham washing the angels’ feet, and some others. Rublev’s “The Trinity” icon does not include any of these details.
The New Testament Trinity
The New Testament Trinity icons, also called The Triune God, were especially popular among the Old Believers, which makes them highly valuable pieces for collectors of antique Russian icons. This variation of the Holy Trinity icons shows the Father and the Son, sitting side by side on a throne. The Father is depicted as an old man with a white beard, sometimes with a very special type of nimbus in the form of a triangle or two rhombic figures. The Son may be depicted with an open Gospel in His left hand and with a cross in His right hand. The Holy Spirit in this religious icon is depicted in the form of a dove hovering over their heads.
This version of the New Testament Trinity Orthodox icons is called the “Enthronement.” However, there is another one, known as the “Fatherhood.” It depicts the Son as a young boy sitting on the lap of the Father. The Holy Spirit is shown in the likeness of a dove floating in the air or depicted in a sphere.
As you can see, the Holy Trinity icons do show a strong connection with God, which makes them an important subject of iconographic representation. No wonder, they are so much cherished and venerated by Christian believers all around the world.