Moments of the Mass: Agnus Dei

02-14-2021Weekly ReflectionClaire Halbur

In the powerful TV series The Chosen*, a breathless Andrew comes running to exclaim to his brother: “Simon, it’s happened! We are saved! I saw him with my own eyes...the Lamb of God.

He who takes away the sin of the world.” He tries to describe being at the Jordan river with John the Baptist and seeing John point out Jesus with this title. Simon, stressed out about his finances, sick mother-in-law, recent argument with his wife, and the lack of good catches lately (he’s a full-time fisherman), dismisses his brother’s testimony as irrelevant to his personal troubles.

There’s a lot to ponder here. We are called, like Andrew, to witness to our own personal encounter with the living Savior. But maybe we are often more like Simon...preoccupied with the struggles of our job, finances, or family situation and thinking that Jesus is “over there somewhere” while I and my problems are “over here”. How is the Lamb of God relevant to us? Why do we even address Jesus by that name?

To understand why the title “Lamb of God” is used for Christ, we must be aware of the significance of the Passover celebration for the Jewish people. Recall that around 1250 BC, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God sent Moses to deliver His people from their long-time bondage and lead them to a land where they could live and worship in freedom. Pharaoh's heart remained hard and unmoved after nine miracles manifested by God through Moses. Finally, God commanded Moses to have each Hebrew family take a one-year-old, male, unblemished lamb; slaughter the lamb; and paint with its blood the doorposts and lintel of every Jewish home, where they would inside eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. That night, the Angel of Death would “passover” the homes protected by the blood, but take the lives of the first born children unprotected by the blood of the lamb. Because of that blood sacrifice, Pharaoh surrendered and let the people go: they went from slavery to freedom, from a land of sin to the Promised land, and from death to new life.**

Picture this other Old Testament moment from Genesis 22: the elderly Abraham and his only, long-awaited, miracle son, Isaac, are together atop a mountain to offer sacrifice. God has instructed Abraham to sacrifice his Isaac on the altar. Isaac unknowingly asks, “Father, we have fire and wood: where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”. To which Abraham responds: “My son, God himself will provide a lamb”. God did provide a lamb, not only that day in place of Isaac, but by sending his own Son to sacrificially pay the price for the sin of the whole world. Hundreds of years after Isaac’s question, the last prophet, John the Baptist, answered it when he pointed to Jesus and proclaimed “Behold: the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” This would have really caught the attention of his Jewish listeners who knew the story of the Passover and well acquainted with the ritual of offering an unblemished lamb in atonement for their sins. A lamb pure enough to take away the sins of all the world? It could only be the Son of God.

The prophets also use the image of the sacrificial lamb to foretell the suffering of the Messiah: “Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer, he was silent and opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

The heavenly Liturgy in the book of Revelation describes a victorious Lamb around whom the celestial bodies praise and worship. As we prepare to enter into Lent, let us reflect on the power and meaning, history and revelation contained in this prayer. We adore the Lamb and His Precious Blood that makes it possible for us to break free from the chains of sin and death and journey toward the Heavenly Jerusalem, where all is victory: an endless Easter.

*If you haven’t seen this, you should definitely check it out! Available GREE on The Chosen app (with easy casting to your TV) & YouTube.