Holy Land



The Ghent Altarpiece

As a stimulus for spiritual reflection this second Sunday of the year, we offer this copy of the central panel of the 15th century Belgian altarpiece entitled "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb."

The altarpiece for St. Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent represents an artistic rendering of this weekend's Gospel from John 1:29 "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

The Lamb - wounded with blood gushing forth into a chalice - stands on the altar in the midst of a verdant meadow.  In the foreground is a fountain of life-giving water.  The Holy Spirit hovers above in a sort of supernatural light.  In the distance are the spires of Jerusalem.

The lamb is surrounded by 14 angels holding symbols of Christ's Passion and two of the angels swing censers of incense.  The figures grouped around the lamb include (top left anti-clockwise): Male Martyrs, Pagan writers and Jewish prophets, male saints and female martyrs.

The painting is intended to depict the Heavenly Eucharist, the Supper of the Lamb described in the Book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5.

Our Earthly liturgy is mystically linked with the continuous heavenly adoration of the lamb by whose sacrificial death we experience salvation.  A classic work of art such as this altarpiece reminds us that our  simple earthly liturgies are a humble manifestation of a much more dramatic and dynamic heavenly celebration, the Communion of Saints.

At the center of all this activity is the lamb.- wounded yet victoriously - continuously pouring out his sacrificial love.  Hopefully you will find herein some thoughts for prayer.


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