During the lockdown phase of the pandemic, my family participated in online mass from our living room. Needless to say, there are some silly things that became part of that routine. We had a ton of inside jokes that we would say out loud throughout the mass (much to the chagrin of my father), we would hold hands during the Our Father prayer and raise them all the way up (again, much to the chagrin of my dad), and plenty more. Arguably the best of these was giving our cat the sign of peace. My brother and I would run throughout the house to find her and tell her “Peace be with you!” I miss that one the most since returning to mass in person.
During this sequence, the YouTube-streamed mass from a parish in Massachusetts would show an image of a lamb. At this point, Jude and I would be returning from giving peace to the cat and we would all replicate with our arms the way that the lamb was hooking its leg around a flag. This is the symbol that I wanted to talk a bit about today. The lamb holding a flag has been used to symbolize the crucified Christ for many centuries. As Jesus is commonly referred to as the Lamb of God or the Sacrificial Lamb, using a physical lamb to represent him translates easily. The lamb has been shown standing on a hill, holding a cross, and/or holding a flag throughout the years. Oftentimes the flag would be connected to a staff that has a cross shape at the top of it. Each representation of the lamb refers to his crucifixion but with slightly different interpretations. The lamb holding the cross obviously communicates the actual crucifixion, the flag suggests his conquering over sin and death, and the lamb by itself is a more general reference to the person of Christ.
Later on in the mass, an image would be shown during Communion. Though this image is mostly focused on the Eucharist (which is beautifully captured as being part of Jesus himself, but that could be a whole separate post) you can see that in a ring around Jesus there are multiple drawings. To the left of Christ’s head we see the lamb drawing again! This lamb is seated and has a halo around his head. The flag he carries is connected to a cross. My family would again point out the way the lamb’s leg was hooked around the staff and replicate it as best we could (still somehow maintaining the reverence of the mass–if anyone could be reverent and funny at the same time, it would be my family).
A few days ago I got the chance to visit Scranton to tour an apartment and visit some friends and we went to mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral. That entire cathedral is decorated with the most beautiful art and architecture, but what I was drawn to the most was the altar. You guessed it, there’s the lamb! I wasn’t at all familiar with this symbol before quarantine but now it is a sweet reminder of family togetherness and laughter during that weird and unpredictable time.