August 15, 2010
Agnus Dei is a Latin term meaning Lamb of God, and was originally used to refer to Jesus Christ in his role of the perfect sacrificial offering that atones for the sins of humanity in Christian theology, stretching back to ancient Jewish Temple sacrifices. The phrase "Agnus Dei"or Lamb of God is the emblem of the Moravian Church and stands in a prominent position in every Moravian Sanctuary. The Moravian Church sees the victorious Lamb of God as quintessential to the development of our faith. There is no celebration over a powerless, defeated, dead and unreliable Christ. We worship a risen Christ who has been victorious over sin, death, the grave and the devil.
In Christian iconography, an Agnus Dei is a visual representation of Jesus as a lamb, since the Middle Ages usually holding a standard or banner with a cross. This normally rests on the lamb's shoulder and is held in its right foreleg. Often the cross will have a white banner suspended from it charged with a red cross, though the cross may also be rendered in different colors. Sometimes the lamb is shown lying atop a book with seven seals hanging from it. This is a reference to the imagery in the Book of Revelation Chapter 5. Occasionally, the lamb may be depicted bleeding from the area of the heart, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Revelation 5:6), symbolizing Jesus' shedding of his blood to take away the sins of the world.
In Early Christian art the symbol of the Lamb of God appears very early on. Several mosaics in churches include it, some showing a row of twelve sheep representing the apostles flanking the central Agnus Dei or Lamb of God.
The Moravian Church uses an Agnus Dei as their seal with the surrounding Latin inscription Vicit Agnus Noster, Eum Sequamur interpreted as "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him." The Moravian Church is very deliberate in having as its seal, the victorious Lamb of God. It is a Church that has gone through so much persecution for its survival and sustenance that it chose the victorious Lamb as a point of reference or a rallying cry for all of its followers. Revelation 14:4 speaks of following the Lamb, “These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb.” Moravians are therefore challenged to let the Lamb of God be our focal point of worship. We ought to pledge allegiance to the Lamb of God.
Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, is Jesus the Christ. The lamb of the Passover sacrifice is said to prefigure the crucifixion. Isaiah calls the expected Messiah the Lamb of God, and Jesus is met by John the Baptist with the words, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world."(John 1:29). In some denominations Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God, is said or sung while the communion bread is being broken for distribution. In Anglican worship it is sung during communion services. Jesus the Risen Lamb of God has conquered, Let us follow Him.