I remember feeling incredibly uneasy at visiting a Church I was unfamiliar with, having a sense that there might be something here that I wanted but no knowledge of what it was or how to access it. Communities are great but if your on the outside of them, they can feel excluding. Churches are strange spaces as well, their buildings and artwork creating symbols that may not be immediately accessible. The services use language and ideas that are unfamiliar and may need explaining. All of these things can leave you feeling that this odd space is outside of your experience and yet point to a mystery you wish to engage with. The language the Church uses for this is mystery, we are not being odd on purpose, it’s just that we are trying to describe something incredibly surprising; you and I, indeed everything that exists was created by someone and continues to exist because that same someone loves us. The mystery of God’s love inspires art, music and worship. It all seems a little strange at first, but that stems from our belief that there is more going on in the world than we first percieve, that everything is somehow more mysterious and more wonderful than we realised.
Andrei Rublev’s Icon, the hospitality of Abraham is a good example of this. There are three figures (angels?) with identical faces are gathered around a table.What does it mean? The picture is taken from a story in the book of Genesis, three figures visit Abraham who are revealed to be God. Abraham shows lavish hospitality and they sit under the shade of an oak tree, where they are given a meal, and promise Abraham that he will be a father, which causes his now elderly wife Sarah to laugh. The idea that three figures could represent God seems to Christians to be a picture of the Trinity (God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet one God) in the first book of the bible and was a scene painted a number of times. The Father wears Gold, the Son has a stripe on his shoulder which was worn by the emperor and the Spirit wears green, the colour of growth and renewal. The figures are gathered around a table and our view of them in unimpeeded, there is a space for us at the table to join the meal and the conversation. This is where the link with Church lies, there is a mystery here and an invitation. Some things are strange, three figures who turn out to be one God, some things are familiar, sitting ar a table to join a meal. The message seems to me to be, this is mysterious (mystical?) but don’t be alarmed you are welcome here, and the needs that have drawn you to consider this mystery will be met here.