Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Lamb of God


In the previous post we have looked at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this, you and I have looked at the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986. At the end of the film we have seen how the father has sacrificed everything he owns and binds him in this life, to God. He has made this sacrifice to save the world, in order that everything remains as it was before the threat of war and to be freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. This sacrifice of the father is as well an unintentional sacrifice of his family and his relatives.

The son brings three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He is constantly giving water to the dead tree and therefore he brings the tree – the tree of life – back to life. By the third sacrifice he remains silent throughout the film.

The son asks to his father – and to God – why his father should keep his word. The son does not need any words for his sacrifice; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes words.

Rightly the son asks at the end of the film: “In the beginning was the word. Why Father? ”

This question brings us to the first sentence in John’s Gospel in the New Testament [1]. Later in our Odyssey, we will try to give answers to this unavoidable question of the son.

In this post we will look further at the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. We look at the painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent. This painting depicts Jesus in the form of the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God is described in the first chapter of John’s Gospel in the New Testament: “The next day St. John sees Jesus approaching. St. John says: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”[2]

[3]

In me I hear the Agnus Dei from Mass in B – minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.

“Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Miserere Nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, Dona Nobis Pacem. [4]

“It seems that the last weeks of our Odyssey we are travelling according parts of the liturgy of Holy Mass from the Catholic Church. A few weeks ago we started with the Kyrie: the word “church” probably originates from Kyrie[5]. Inside the churches, we continued with the Credo in the form of light and hope. The reflection and the sermon followed within two meditation rooms. And now we arrive at the sacrifice by watching the movie “Offret” and at the Agnus Dei [6] as the Lamb of God, “I say.

[7]

“I could never say the Credo – or I believe – with conviction. It is not possible for me to believe in the Christian theology”, you say.

“You’re not alone and I feel this doubt with you. Also Thomas one of the disciples of Jesus, cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the resurrection of Jesus as salvation and resurrection of all people or believers. Caravaggio’s painting shows that. This doubt of Thomas is not taken away by feeling the wound. Probably, faith and doubt go hand in hand for many Christians”, I say.

[8]

“I believe that every day the sun rises as resurrection and I believe in my next breath. But I cannot believe in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God as salvation of the universe”, you say.

“People have also questioned the next rising of the sun and the next breath. Hereof many rituals are known for establishing and perpetuating this confidence. People know a lot of uncertainties about the past, the present and the future. Christian theology tries to overcome these uncertainties (“in doubt” or “doubt” in Latin) by faith, rituals – including offerings – and hope. A deeply religious Christian once said: “The last thing I want to lose is my faith.” For me, this sentence includes even a trace of doubt. A rock-solid belief never fades. By rituals people try to establish and maintain trust and hope. The Christian faith says: “And they that know your name, will put their trust in you.” [9]  The painting of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck nicely show this: the Father, the Son as the Lamb of God and the Holy Spirit as trinity”, I say.

“The Bible includes the Book of Job that is about a rock-solid faith [10]. I also think of the Japanese poet Rӯokan. Once at night everything was stolen from his simple hut:

“The thief leaves behind,

the ever changeful Moon

at the firmament.” [11]

The moon [12] points to the firm belief of Rӯokan”, you say.

“The faith of people in the past often seems more certain, because we see their past as well established. But maybe their rock-solid faith does also know uncertainties in their lives. If we look with their eyes, do we see a different world, other uncertainties, different expectations, a different religion? I do not know”, I say.

“Me neither. Shall we continue with the Dove as the Holy Spirit in the next post?”, you say.


[1] St. John 1:1 from the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

[2] St. John 1:29 and 1:36 from the New Testament.

[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamb_of_God

[4] Translation: Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

[5] The source of the word “Church” probably is Greek: “Kūrios” meaning “Lord, Master”. Source: Ayto, John, Word Origins, the hidden History of English Words from A to Z. London: A &C Black, 2008. Maybe the word Church originates via the German word “Kirche” from the compound of Indo-European words “kr” (karoti, kurute) meaning “make, do, perform”, and “ish” depending on the “sh” sound either “sacrifice” or “ruler”, or “ich – I ” in Sanskrit.

[6] “The Agnus Dei is part of the Mass in the Catholic church and seems to be introduced for the first time during a Mass by Pope Sergius I (687-701 AD).  Agnus Dei means Lamb of God and literally refers to Christ in his role as the perfect sacrifice that reconciles the sins of mankind in the Christian theology. The prayer dates from the time of the ancient Jewish sacramental sacrifices. The Agnus Dei is sung during Mass when the priest breaks the Holy Bread and unification takes place, the priest drops a piece of the wafer in the chalice – filled with wine and water as blood of Christ.
The sacrifice of a lamb and the blood of the lamb are often used metaphors in the religions of the Middle East. It refers to the ancient Jewish custom to liberate people from their sins by a sacrifice. In the Protestant churches in the Revelation the phrase “washed in the blood of the lamb” is used to designate the deliverance of the original sin supposed by the churches. On our Odyssey, we already have encountered the cattle-sacrifice in the myth and Trito cattle cycle.
In art, Agnus Dei, the figure of a lamb bearing a cross, symbolizing Jesus as the Lamb of God. This metaphor is often used in Christian art, where the Mystic Lamb by the brothers Van Eyck in Ghent is famous.
Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnus_Dei

[7] Source image: http://www.bertsgeschiedenissite.nl/middeleeuwen/eeuw15/jan_van_eyck.htm

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio.jpg

[9] Source: Psalm 9:10: “God, the protector of the believers”.

[10] Also Job despairs when he and his wife feel the big setbacks directly in their bodies. Job asks God why he deserves these setbacks, his faith is unconditional. In a storm God replies: “Where were you when I separated the sky and the earth and created the universe!”. Hereafter Job recognizes his ignorance, he calls for teaching and confesses that he has directly God in his omnipotence. Job does penance in dust and ashes. After a cattle sacrifice, God’s wrath disappears and prosperity returns for Job.

When Job would have recognized all setbacks as part of himself, may Job have answered God that he is present in the separation of air and earth? May he have the courage to say that his appearance in the separation of air and earth is adapted to the circumstances?  That he always remains one during and after the separation of air and earth and during and after all the crackle that follows?

[11] Source: Stevens, John, Three Zen Masters, Ikkyū, Hakuin, Rӯokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993. Page 131.

[12] Rӯokan is a Japanese Zen Buddhist. Zen Buddhism starts in China by a merger of Taoism and Buddhism. Taoism knows Tao as a keyword meaning “road or course of life”, but this word is probably derived from the ancient Chinese word for “Moon”. Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993 Page: 35.

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