February 3, 2012
Agnus Dei Window in Black & White by Kathy Grimm
The title Lamb of God (in Latin Agnus Dei) appears in the Gospel of John, with the exclamation of John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” in John 1:29 when he sees Jesus.
Although in Christian teachings, Lamb of God refers to Jesus Christ in his role of the perfect sacrificial offering, specific Christological arguments dissociate it from the Old Testament concept of a “scape goat” which is subjected to punishment for the sins of others, without knowing it or willing it. These teachings emphasize that Jesus chose to suffer at Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his Father, as an “agent and servant of God”.
A lion-like lamb which rises to deliver victory after being slain appears several times in the Book of Revelation. Although also indirectly referred to in Pauline writings, nothing in the context of 1 Corinthians 5:7 directly implies that in that specific passage Saint Paul refers the death of Jesus using the same theme as in Johannine writings.
The Lamb of God title has found widespread use in Christian prayers and the Agnus Dei is used both in liturgy and as a form of contemplative prayer. Agnus Dei has also been the subject of musical settings by well known composers.
February 2, 2012
The Triumphant Lamb by Kathy Grimm
The concept of the Lamb of God fits well within John’s “agent Christology” in which sacrifice is made as an agent of God or servant of God, for the sake of eventual victory.
The theme of a sacrificial lamb which rises in victory as the Resurrected Christ was employed in early Christology, e.g. in 375 Saint Augustine wrote: “Why a lamb in his passion? Because he underwent death without being guilty of any iniquity. Why a lion in his passion? Because in being slain, he slew death. Why a lamb in his resurrection? Because his innocence is everlasting. Why a lion in his resurrection? Because everlasting also is his might.”
The 11th century Christology of Saint Anselm of Canterbury specifically disassociates Lamb of God from the Old Testament concept of an “escape goat” which is subjected to punishment for the sins of others, without knowing it or willing it. Anselm emphasized that as Lamb of God Jesus chose to suffer in Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of the Father.
John Calvin presented the same Christological view of “The Lamb as the agent of God” by arguing that in his trial before Pilate and while at Herod’s Court Jesus could have argued for his innocence, but instead remained mostly quiet and submitted to Crucifixion in obedience to the Father, for he knew his role as the Lamb of God.
In modern Eastern Orthodox Christology, Sergei Bulgakov argued that the role of Jesus as the Lamb of God was “pre-eternally” determined by the Father before the creation of the world, as a sign of love by considering the scenario that it would be necessary to send The Son as an agent to redeem humanity disgraced by the fall of Adam.
In modern Roman Catholic Christology, Karl Rahner has continued to elaborate on the analogy that the blood of the Lamb of God, and the water flowing from the side of Christ on Calvary had a cleansing nature, similar to baptismal water. In this analogy, the blood of the Lamb washed away the sins of humanity in a new baptism, redeeming it from the fall of Adam.
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January 31, 2012
Agnus Dei Window by Kathy Grimm
In Christian iconography, an Agnus Dei is a visual representation of Jesus as a lamb, since the Middle Ages usually holding a standard or banner with a cross. This normally rests on the lamb’s shoulder and is held in its right foreleg. Often the cross will have a white banner suspended from it charged with a red cross (similar to St George’s Cross), though the cross may also be rendered in different colors. Sometimes the lamb is shown lying atop a book with seven seals hanging from it. This is a reference to the imagery in the Book of Revelation 5:1-13, ff. Occasionally, the lamb may be depicted bleeding from the area of the heart (Cf. Revelation 5:6), symbolizing Jesus’ shedding of his blood to take away the sins of the world (Cf. John 1:29, 1:36).
In Early Christian art the symbol appears very early on. Several mosaics in churches include it, some showing a row of twelve sheep representing the apostles flanking the central Agnus Dei, as in Santi Cosma e Damiano, Rome (526-30).
The Moravian Church uses an Agnus Dei as their seal with the surrounding inscription Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur (“Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him.”).
Although the depiction of Jesus as the Lamb of God is of ancient origin, it is not used in the liturgical iconography of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The reason for this is that the depictions of Jesus in the Orthodox Church are anthropomorphic rather than symbolic, as a confession of the Orthodox belief in the Incarnation of the Logos. However, there is no objection to the application of the term “Lamb of God” to Jesus. In fact, the Host used in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is referred to as the Lamb (Greek: άμνος, amnos; Slavonic: Агнецъ, agnets).
January 30, 2012
Little Lamb by Kathy Grimm
The Book of Revelation includes over twenty references to a lion-like lamb (“slain but standing”) which delivers victory in a manner reminiscent of the resurrected Christ. In the first appearance of the lamb in Revelation (5:1-7) only the lamb (which is of the tribe of Judah, and the root of David) is found worthy to take the judgment scroll from God and break the seals. The reference to the lamb in Revelation 5:6 relates it to the Seven Spirits of God which first appear in Revelation 1:4 and are associated with Jesus who holds them along with seven stars.
In Revelation 21:14 the lamb is said to have twelve apostles. The handing of the scroll (i.e. the book containing the names of those who will be saved) to the risen lamb signifies the change in the role of the lamb. In Calvary, the lamb submitted to the will of the Father to be slain, but now is trusted with the judgment of mankind.
From the outset, the book of Revelation is presented as a “revelation of Jesus Christ” and hence the focus on the lamb as both redeemer and judge presents the dual role of Jesus: he redeems man through self-sacrifice, yet calls man to account on the day of judgment.
January 26, 2012
The Good Shepherd by Kathy Grimm
A gentleman traveling in the lonely part of the highlands of Scotland was attracted by the bleating of a ewe, as the animal came from the roadside, as if to meet him. When nearer she redoubled her cries and looked up into his face as if to ask for assistance. He alighted from his gig and followed her to considerable distance from the road, where he found a lamb completely wedged in betwixt two large stones, and struggling with its legs uppermost. He took out the sufferer and placed it on the green sward, when the mother, seemingly overjoyed, poured forth her thanks in a long-continued bleat.
The good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep. He rejoices more at the safety of the lost sheep than over the ninety and nine that were safe in the fold.
- I Am the Good Shepherd Matthew 10: 1-21 (loopyloo305.com)
- The Good Shepherd… (beardedhac.wordpress.com)
- John 10 – I Am The Good Shepherd (readingacts.wordpress.com)
- By Quiet Streams (photosbykdotorg.wordpress.com)