Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Reading of the Icon of the Three Companions

A Reading of the Icon of the Three Companions

This icon is visibly patterned after Rublev’s Trinity. Ignatius takes the place of the Father; Xavier, the Son; and Faber, the Holy Spirit.

Ignatius is the Father of the Society of Jesus. It is his guiding hand raised in blessing that established the Society in its firm foundation and guides it even now by his shining inspiration. To his apostolic spirituality the Society owes its being and identity.

Xavier is the Son of Saint Ignatius. He carried out the dream of Ignatius of going and announcing (Ite et Annunciate) the Good News of Christ. His right hand touches the globe symbolizing his direct labors for the apostolate in his efforts to evangelize Asia and the Pacific. His left hand holds aloft the Cross of Christ, recalling his zealous proclamation of the Kingdom. He embodies the Society’s missionary impetus.

Faber is the Consoler of that First Company. In his hand, he bears the Spiritual Exercises, which embody the spirit of the Society of Jesus, of which he is the first to be born. He accompanied Ignatius and Xavier with a comforting presence as a quiet pillar of strength and encouragement. He is shown sitting in a listening stance, keenly devoted to the needs of his brethren. He embodies the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis.

In the background, we see the University of Paris to the left and the Church of the Gesu on the right, reminding us of their movement, from being Friends in the Lord to being the Society of Jesus, from companionship to mission; not without the hardships embodied by steep rocks, tumultuous waves and freezing snow but also not bereft of the consolations signified by the sheltering Tree and soft grass.

One may simply ask, Where is God in this icon? According to the mind of Ignatius, we see God in all things—in the golden light of glory that enfolds the whole image and indeed the whole life of Ignatius and his first companions: moving in their deepest cores, seizing their hearts with burning passion, drawing them through each other to union with himself. As in Rublev’s original, the three persons are shown in deep spiritual intimacy. The icon is an invitation to enter into the communion of the First Companions and rediscover in their school of apostolic spirituality, missionary impetus and cura personalis, especially in this year of Jubilee, our Jesuit meaning and character.

<bgsound src="" loop="infinite">