I got a tattoo!
It's a half sleeve on my left arm that goes all the way around, halfway up the forearm to the elbow.
A warm Thank You to my talented friend Travis Eason for the beautiful design and execution. For Abilene locals, you can find Travis at Travis Eason Designs. Dear Travis, I love this piece of artwork you've done for me.
The tattoo is of Rublev's icon of the Trinity, pictured here.
Rublev's icon may be the most well known of all the Orthodox icons.
The icon is actually of a scene called "The Hospitality of Abraham" depicting the events in Genesis 18 where Abraham offers hospitality to three angelic victors--collectively identified as "the Lord"--under the oak trees of Mamre. In some Orthodox icons of this scene Abraham and Sarah are also depicted. In Rublev's icon (and in others) only the three angelic visitors are seen.
If this is an icon of the events in Genesis 18 then why is the icon called Rublev's trinity? Well, the Orthodox iconographers were not allowed to depict God directly. That would be making a graven image. So the iconographers would use the hospitality of Abraham as an indirect way of depicting God as the Trinity, with the three angelic visitors described as "the Lord" in the text representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the icon the Son, in brown, is the central figure. The Spirit is on the right of the picture in green. The Father is on the left in red. All also wear blue to represent their divinity.
So that's my tattoo! Why this choice?
Two reasons, one theological and the other aspirational.
The theological reason is that for the Orthodox the Trinity is the theological articulation that God is a relational, communal being. Ontologically, God is loving community. So I picked this icon to simply say "God is love." God is loving community and relationship. This is the theological bedrock of everything I believe about God. God is love. That belief is now written on me. (And written is the right word as icons are "written" rather than "painted." An icon is the Word being proclaimed.)
The aspirational reason for this tattoo is related to the fact the hospitality of Abraham is the primal text in the bible that points to welcoming God in the stranger. The icon represents hospitality and welcome. In this the icon is aspirational. I look at the icon and am reminded to welcome the person in front of me as I would welcome Christ himself. Matthew 25. Welcoming the little one. As the Benedictines say, Hospes venit, Christus venit. "When a guest comes, Christ comes." I want to live my life that way. Rublev's icon reminds me of that. So I wanted to always have it with me. And thanks to Travis, now I do.
If you'd like to see it, pictures of the tattoo are below the break.
I took these pictures with my phone (by myself) so the quality and framing isn't all that great. I hope to get back over to Travis's so he can take some proper pictures. But this will give you a sense of what it looks like.
On the left is the central image of the Son and a better shot of the Spirit on the right:
On the right is a better image of the Father and on the left is the Oak of Mamre (which is on the back of my arm):
Update: I've added this picture so you can see what the tattoo looks like from a distance and a better sense of where it's placed on my arm. This is a picture from Streaming during the Q&A with Walter Brueggemann. You can see the tattoo--mainly the oak tree--on my left arm.