The Lamb of God
Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger
Many years ago (17 years to be exact) I was privileged to help an old retired priest write a small booklet about something he had thought through for many years: the Lamb of God Theme in the Bible. I have searched high and low without having any luck looking for the original disks so that I might turn it into a PDF file for people to download. I know it would have made the now deceased Monsignor very happy; for he used his own money to print many thousands of copies which he handed out to anyone and everyone he met. It was printed during the 51st anniversary of his priesthood. With great love and admiration for this holy man of God, I will attempt to abridge his original work into a series of posts. God grant that I do this servant of God justice in my attempt.
Monsignor Hamburger took as his personal motto the following words from (John 10:10): “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” And indeed he succeeded in giving a more abundant life to any who had the privilege to know him. This little booklet was just a small portion of that mission which he took so seriously.
Reverend Monsignor Donald C. Hamburger opened his little book with a letter to his friends that expressed how this theme developed in his mind. It began with his being involved in the enlarging of our church and specifically with his design of a huge stained glass window with a depiction of the Lamb of God and many of the early prototypes or types that were used in the Bible which were fulfilled in Christ. Next, he discussed this theme often with Rev. Walter Miller Crowe a good friend and pastor of the local Presbyterian Church. Together they decided to use this theme as a suitable topic for use as a joint adult study back in 1988. In 1992 he also used this theme to give talks in our parish as a Lenten Series. It was during the preparations for these talks, that he began to develop a strong desire to put in print this thematic reflection of the Bible for a wider consideration. May you rest in peace my dear friend and may your love of this theme lead others to love it as well and develop this theme even further; for you wrote it specifically for the enjoyment and spiritual insight that it might give to all of us. This theme brought you great joy. May it also bring others to your joy as well! So, we will begin:
He quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 53. The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously “by words which are intrinsically bound up with each other” and shed light on each other. It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
The Contingent Plan: Monsignor asks us here to remember and to reread the first 3 chapters of Genesis and to remember the special gifts that were given to Adam and Eve.
Scripture scholars have distinguished these sets of gifts given to our first parents: 1) natural, 2) supernatural, and 3) preternatural. Suffice it to say that Adam and Eve are said to have lost the supernatural and preternatural gifts, and even the use of the natural gifts are impaired by their act of disobedience. We can see from this that the present earth in its entirety is not the original plan of the Creator but a contingent one following upon the Fall of Adam and Eve.
The first section of Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Splendor of Truth says: “As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is ‘a liar and the father of all lies’ (Jn. 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living God in order to direct it toward idols (Cf. I Thes. 1:9), exchanging ‘the truth about God for a lie’ (Rom 1:25). Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.” (Section I)
Cardinal John J. O’Connor spoke of this from the pulpit in 1994 saying: “In this extraordinary mystery that we don’t pretend to understand we find that Adam and Eve transmitted this sin through human nature. We receive human nature and receive the corruption, the destruction, the devastation of Original Sin. When we are baptized, it becomes possible for us to get back into heaven because Christ came and suffered and died for us and gave us the Sacrament of Baptism to open the gates of heaven. Unfortunately, we’re still left with all of the other faults that accrued because of Original Sin. We’ve lost what are called the ‘preternatural’ gifts of God: freedom from death, from suffering, from temptation, and so on.”
Prelude A: The Promise – Genesis, Chapter 3 – Prehistory.
Here Monsignor enumerates the fall of the angels from grace; those we now call Satan and the other devils. He posits that they were lost due to pride and that some theologians have thought that they thought it beneath them to have to worship God as man, when God’s plan was revealed to them. Their pride then left them to be cast from heaven without any chance of future redemption.
However, unlike the pure spirits, Adam and Eve were spared from immediate damnation to hell. Instead, they were promised a redeemer and permitted a chance to work out their salvation so that they could re-enter heaven if they loved and served God. Ever since, Satan and the fallen angels have been jealous of humans and are one of the three great enemies that we humans have to struggle against: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Note: Almighty God delivered the sentences of punishment upon each in turn: the punishment given to the serpent was the first. It was also our Good News, namely, that eventually an offspring of woman will crush Satan’s power. God will accept this as restitution for Adam’s sin and reopen the gates of Heaven. What was not revealed at the time was what I mentioned above, namely, that the son of woman was also going to be the Son of the Triune God. No wonder the Liturgy of Holy Week refers to the original sin as: “O, Felix Culpa” (O, Happy Fault) that has merited so great and such a Redeemer! And now, we of the New Testament, “the Lamb of God people,” have learned that God did become man, in everything but sin; Emanuel, God with us.
The CCC sums it up as follows: 407. “The doctrine of Original Sin, connected with that of the redemption by Christ, illuminates the human condition and human activity in the world . . . Ignoring the fact that humanity has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.”
We think we are going to create a perfect world but we forget about Original Sin. The final paragraph in this section says: “After the fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God called him and in a mysterious way heralded his victory over evil and the recovery from his fall – the first announcement of the coming of the Messiah and Redeemer, that of a struggle between the serpent and the Woman, Mary, and of the final victory of the one descending from Her (Jesus). (Gen. 3:15)”
Prelude B: The Good News – Genesis 3:15 (Proto-evangelium) – Prehistory
What we call the Proto-evangelium or first gospel is the forerunner of all the reappearances of the Lamb of God in the Bible; the written word of Divine Revelation. The Proto-evangelium is God’s first intimation in the Bible of His grandiose plan to show His limitless love for mankind: He Himself will become the Lamb when blood-shedding will pay the price of redemption from the offense of Original Sin. It is the first telling of the Good News that will bring “Joy to the World” when the offspring of a woman will crush the power of mankind’s adversary, the serpent known as Satan.
Genesis 3:15 is but a sketch perhaps of God’s plan and draft of the model as seen by John in the book of Revelation: “I saw a Lamb standing as though slain . . . “ (cf Rev. 5,6)
But what a long time it took in years, as man counts them, between the first telling of the Good News and the actual accomplishment of the fact! How long it was from that Proto-evangelium in the Garden of Eden to the night when the Angels sang in the Shepherd’s Field outside of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”
Many centuries would pass with the Great Designer filling in, line by line, the various types before the Great Fulfillment finally appears. We read of the first model in Genesis 4:1-16: the Acceptable Sacrifice of Abel.
Model One: Abel’s Acceptable Sacrifice – Genesis 4:1-24 – Prehistory
Introduction: Somewhere in the murky mists of many millennia, before history came to be written, Adam and Eve had two sons named Cain and Abel. Each offered a sacrifice to their Maker. The sacrifice of the younger was acceptable to God while the other was not.
Their story was passed down for many centuries by word of mouth. It was used by Moses under Divine Inspiration when he composed the first five books of the Bible; i.e. the Pentateuch or as the Jews know it, the Torah.
As the Divine Liturgy came to be formed, Abel’s sacrifice received “pride of place” because of its invaluable characteristic: Purity of Intention. It is the first account in the Bible of the Lamb of God Sacrifice.
Jesus Himself referred to “Abel the just” (Cf. Mt. 23:35) as did several of the Apostles. In our own day the Council Fathers, too, mentioned Abel (Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Ch. 1, 2). No wonder modern liturgists employed its reference in Eucharistic Prayer #1, called the Roman Canon:
“Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel . . .”
Then there follows a prayer which certainly refers to John’s Apocalypse or Revelation:
“Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven . . .”
As we read John’s Revelation (Ch. 5, 6), we can easily derive that God’s plan is including it not only in every Mass we now offer but also in the eternal plan of heaven’s activities. Therefore, it has an eschatological meaning.
Since Abel’s sacrifice entailed the shedding of an animal’s blood, it would be good for us to consider briefly the part that blood played for centuries whenever God made a covenant with the Chosen People before the time of Christ. This will help us understand the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and the Sacrament of the Divine Liturgy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a necessary part of the God-man’s development of this sign. In fact, it was spiritualized by transforming this sacrifice into a Sacrament, “the new and everlasting covenant” (I Cor. 11:23), at the Last Supper. And, again we see this sacrifice immortalized in St. John’s Apocalypse when in Heaven he “saw a Lamb standing as though slain” (Apoc. 5:6), as I mentioned earlier.
Indeed it was this need for “blood” that gave Jesus the motivation to use His divine power to change the wine of the Passover meal into His Precious Blood. This then, led to the institution of the priesthood of the Apostles.
Now we continue with the story: Paul refers to Jesus, in I Cor. 15:45-49, as the second Adam. We can see further analogy to His offspring as being like to the second attempt by God to raise up children pleasing to Him and of clean heart. The primitive example of this is the second son of Adam. The final example of this is those “born of the spirit” who followed Christ (Cf. John 1:13).
Although the elder brother Cain offered of his efforts to till the soil, it was the younger brother, Abel and keeper of the flocks, whose sacrifice, though offered after Cain’s, was acceptable to God; it was offered with a clean heart.
God even gave Cain a second chance by suggesting that Cain be reconciled; for then his sacrifice would also be acceptable to God. Jesus laid down this same condition when He told His followers to leave their gifts at the altar and to first go reconcile themselves with their brothers; only then were they to come and offer gifts at the altar (Cf. Mat. 5:23 ff.). This is a good reason for our modern liturgists to move the “sign of peace” to the beginning of the Mass. The sign that God gave Cain served two purposes: 1) it would remain permanently as a sign of God’s special protection, reminding us of the spiritual character that is given by three of the sacraments instituted by Christ; Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders and 2) it assured Cain that God would save him from being slain by others.
Because Cain was forced to wander the face of the earth, he carried the message wherever he went; much like the future children of Abraham who carried the mark of their covenant with God in the flesh (circumcision). They also bore witness to the purity of God’s message into all the lands which they traveled.
So too, the early followers of Christ were driven out of the Holy Land by the Romans and the Jews after A.D. 70. It is interesting to note that only one Apostle died in Jerusalem; James, the brother of John. “The blood of a martyr becomes the seed of Christians!”
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” – The Beatitudes.