Behold the Lamb of God
If you’re a regular Mass-goer, the headline should sound familiar. At the beginning of the Communion Rite, the priest elevates the Host and the chalice and says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.” Those words hold deep meaning.
Lamb of God… Supper of the Lamb… Taking away the sins of the world… What does all of this mean? The day after John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he saw the Lord again, and announced to the crowd that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John again points to Jesus the next day, announcing that he is “the Lamb of God.”
The Jews of the day would have immediately made the connection with Passover, a memorial feast that the Jews have celebrated every year since God set them free from slavery in Egypt, about 1,250 years earlier. For us today, however, we need to hearken back to the Old Testament for a better understanding of “the Lamb of God.”
God set his people free from Egyptian slavery by means of sacrifice and a meal. God instructed Moses to have each family slaughter an unblemished lamb, to sprinkle its blood on the lintel and the doorposts of the house, to roast its flesh, and to eat it during a ceremonial meal. That night the Angel of Death visited Egypt, but seeing the lamb’s blood on the doorposts, it passed over the Israelites’ houses. The sacrifice of the lambs resulted in salvation for God’s people.
For John the Baptist to call Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” tells us that Jesus is the perfect lamb of sacrifice who will free all of God’s people from the slavery of sin and win for us the victory of salvation. Our participation in the sacramental life of the Church, including our participation in the Mass and reception of Holy Communion, is a real participation in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus today. Holy Thursday begins the three holiest days of the year for us, the Triduum, which re-presents for us the fulfillment of the first Passover: Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. At every Mass, we participate in the Victory Supper of the Lamb now and receive a foretaste of his victory supper that will last forever in heaven.
I love all of the signs, symbols and traditions of our Catholic faith. For close to 20 years now, my wife, children and I have celebrated a mini “Passover” supper around our family table on Holy Thursday before attending Mass. This simple celebration has helped my family (and me) to better understand what happens at Mass and how awesome is the sacrifice and victory of Jesus for us. The recipe below is the centerpiece of our annual celebration.
JEFF YOUNG, best known as The Catholic Foodie, is an author, blogger, radio host and podcaster.
Grilled Lamb Chops
6 to 8 lamb chops
Dry Greek seasoning (oregano, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes)
4 cloves garlic
Coarse ground kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Remove lamb chops from packaging, rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Place in a pan to marinate. Coat each side of lamb chops with olive oil.
Sprinkle both sides of lamb chops with salt (to taste) and a generous amount of the Greek seasoning. Rub it in. Crush 4-5 cloves of garlic, and sprinkle it on and around the chops. Cover the dish and put in the refrigerator to marinate for a few hours (at least 1 hour).
When you’re ready to cook, remove the lamb from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (20 to 30 minutes). Heat the grill to around 425°F. When heated, lay the lamb chops out on the grill. Grill them for 3-4 minutes on each side (depending on how well-cooked you prefer your lamb).