Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: Icon with Three Angels

Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: Icon with Three Angels

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By Nicholas Damascus

Why does the icon of the Trinity in the Orthodox Church have 3 Angels?

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, icons are not imaginative creations of an iconographer. The translation of the Greek word iconographer implies, “image writer.” To create an icon of faith is to be understood as writing the Holy Scriptures in pictorial form.

The icon of “The Hospitality of Abraham” depicted, an event described in Genesis 18:1-8 where the presence of three men appeared before Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre; Abraham identifies these three men that appeared to him as Christ and two angels.

The depiction and appearance of the three angelic hosts in the icon of “The Hospitality of Abraham” were adopted as a representation in a new icon called “The Trinity.” The three angels are not the three Persons of the Trinity; however, each angel represents a person of the Trinity known to us as the Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

This icon of the Trinity was painted or, more appropriately, “image written” by a very renowned iconographer Andrei Rublev. The motivation behind this depiction was said to be an attempt to describe the relationship of, “One God in Three Persons.”

In the Trinity icon, the Father is on the left, the Holy Spirit is on the right side, facing the Father, and Christ is in the center who is also looking at the Father.

Icon image of Trinity

Contained in the Trinity icon is the subtle large outline of the Eucharistic Chalice (between the Father and the Holy Spirit) where Christ is within this chalice. The inference is that Christ is obedient to the will of the Father, becoming the crucifixion sacrifice. The Holy Spirit is the creator of life who is proceeding from the Father.

Both Christ and the Holy Spirit of God are looking at the Father, who is on the left side of the Trinity icon; both of their postures demonstrate their submission to the Father’s will. Each Persons individual identity is mystically undivided, co-equal, of the same essence, and each one of the Persons is indwelling entirely within the Others by virtue of an unceasing movement of mutual love. It is this communion that makes God be!

In the Trinity icon, blue symbolizes divinity, brown represents earthly qualities (humanity), gold speaks of the kingship of God, and green symbolizes creation of life.

We can describe the Christian God as the Holy Trinity of three Persons beginning with the Father, who is the impulse of design and the original cause of all things that exist. Next, is the only begotten Son and immortal Word of God, who is the creative cause of whom all things were made. And finally, the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and is the perfecting cause, the Creator of Life. The Nicene Creed states the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Eastern Orthodox Christians believe in our present medium on this Earth, that we cannot know the divine essence of God. He is transcendent, not a part of the material creation, but immanently involved in the material universe. His involvement in our lives takes the form of his divine, uncreated energies of love which is God Himself.


The following is an excerpt from a prayer from the Divine Liturgy Service of Saint John Chrysostom.

“…You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever, and always the same. You and your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, you raised us again…” and I might add again and again and again.]

About Nicholas Damascus

Nick Damascus is one who seeks to discover and apply the proverbial question of what is truth and wisdom, to fill that gaping hole, to become complete and to become realistically and synergistically functional. In an attempt to live the Christian life, which he says is a definite work in progress, he has discovered that he's created the Christ that fits his lifestyle and agrees with his ego (and boy what an ego, he says), often finding himself avoiding what God intended him to be.

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