Trinitarianism in a Painting

Okay, so it’s a Rockwell painting. Deal with it.

The Father, the ungenerated, dominating the age from creation to the Incarnation, is seen only from the back. The Lord said “you shall not see my face, for no man shall see me and live…I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back: but my face shall not be seen.”

The whole visible of the Father is the generated image:

Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? 

The image in the mirror has no composure to his face but is simply “what is happening” in the life of the artist. He is logos or facticity of the generated. That said the image in the mirror is shown with his shirt open to the heart. The image has a palate and is ready to work:

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

The posture of the Father (and by imitation, the Son) is divided, allowing on the one hand for the generation of the image, arising as light from light, and allowing on the other hand for the generation of the pencil-image face arising from the co-substantiality of painter and image. The Father gives rise to the Son by light, but to the Spirit only so far as he can see himself in the Son. There is therefore both a monarchy of the Father making both mirror image and pencil image, and a generation filioque so far as the Father can never give rise to the Spirit apart from seeing himself in the Son.

The Spirit is both between the Father and the Son and above them. He is the only face showing friendliness, fellow feeing, idealization. His is the third image that is co-substantial with the other two, since the whole reason for the reflection or the painter is to have the pencil image. The Face of the Spirit is the only one in the process of completion, for only his age has yet to find its consummation. It is also the only image that looks at the viewer, because he alone is the God who is among us, even though to see is face is the same as seeing the face of the others.

There is, of course, the “fourth” Rockwell by implication: the one who actually painted the picture with all three faces. None of the faces can exist except as existing in the unity of the one from whom they all proceed and with whom they are all identical.



  1. August 2, 2017 at 6:24 am

    But the image being painted (within the painting) is not identical with (the same substance as) or even similar to (similar in substance with) the others.

  2. August 2, 2017 at 7:18 am

    1.) Metaphors, analogies, and even examples are inapt in infinite ways and so there is no information in disputing them like this.

    2.) The word substance has a lot of meanings in every language that uses the term. If you mean “sort of thing” then the three Rockwells are all the same sort of thing: ink arranged to look like Rockwell. If by substance you mean “source of existence” then you’re talking about the “fourth” Rockwell in comparison to the three, in which case the three are the same substance. God is triune by nature, i.e. the totality of his esse is expressed in the relations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is exactly why trinitarianism is a monotheism.

  3. Ian said,

    August 2, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, thanks.

  4. August 3, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Why is Normal Rockwell looking at himself and painting Bing Crosby? I think this is a mystery that deserves looking into.

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