Orthodox icon | Visit of the Three Angels | 24736.
This icon vividly captures the Holy Trinity as illustrated by the Old Testament narrative where Abraham and Sarah host three angelic visitors in the grove of Mamre. This pivotal episode represents a manifestation of the Trinity on Earth. The three angels, seated in harmony around a table bearing a goblet, each clutch a staff, signifying not just divine authority but the cohesive power and unity of the Trinity.
Enhancing the icon’s allure is its intricate miniature artwork, which underscores its outstanding beauty and meticulous craftsmanship.
The biblical account in Genesis 18:2 describes Abraham’s encounter with “three men.” Early church scholars saw this as a cryptic allusion to God’s triune essence. The Eastern Orthodox Church holds this incident in high regard, interpreting it as a tangible representation of the Divine Trinity.
While the Western Church observes its own distinct Trinity feast day on the first Sunday after Pentecost, the Eastern Church marks the event of the three angels’ appearance to Abraham on that very Pentecost Sunday, underscoring God’s triune character.
Centered in the icon, Abraham and Sarah exude warmth and hospitality as they attend to the three angelic visitors. Surrounding this main tableau are additional scenes, organized clockwise:
- An angel intervenes, stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son, Isaac.
- Abraham, alongside his nephew Lot, leaves the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, heeding divine instructions not to glance back. Yet, Lot’s wife disobeys, turning into a salt pillar.
- Sarah, in a touching display of hospitality, bakes bread for her celestial guests.
- With respect and gratitude, Abraham bids his angelic visitors farewell.
- Demonstrating utmost humility, Abraham washes the feet of the angels.
- Abraham offers a heartfelt welcome to the angels, signaling the beginning of their divine visit.
- A servant, at Abraham’s behest, slaughters a calf, ensuring a grand feast for the angelic guests.
- Two dedicated servants set up the table, ensuring it’s fit for their esteemed guests.
- The composition rounds off with Abraham and Sarah, their faces aglow with unwavering faith and reverence.