Symbols of the Lamb – Innocence, Purity, the Chalice & the Grail
I've been called recently to meditate on the symbols of the lamb and on this Easter Sunday I have included some Christian iconography with the Lamb of God and its connection with the messages of divine sacrifice, the chalice, purity, holy blood and innocence. In regard to these themes I've looked at the mythology of Glastonbury or Avalon and the chalice and holy grail as well as themes related to this including holy blood and red water, a spiritual quest, and the land. I've also included some recent photos of lambs from Earthling Ed's animal sanctuary - Ed is a person who has inspired me very much in life and I felt like his work coincided with these themes.
Postcard from 1885
'Adoration of the Lamb' in the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, completed in 1432
The Lamb of God was a title given to Jesus by John the Baptist and this image became an integral message in Christianity regarding Jesus taking away the sins of the world. In the Book of Revelation, it was described that a lion-like lamb arose after being slain to deliver victory in the manner of the resurrected Christ. Images appear in Christian iconography of blood pouring from a lamb’s heart into a holy chalice – a grail-like cup. In Christianity, the lamb represents Christ as both suffering yet victorious. I enjoy looking at paintings of the Lamb of God and contemplating their symbols, rather than taking them literally. The sacrifice of the lamb and its holy blood could be a symbol for the sacrifices we take on our spiritual journey – we may not wish to let things go but when we do, we may find that we are unburdening ourselves and stepping more deeply onto our innocent true path.
'Crucifixion' by Matthias Grünewald, c. 1515
From a church in California (photo by Rebecca Kennison)
I feel that the Lamb of God is also a beautiful symbol of non-duality – a gentle reminder that our consciousness is not separate from the consciousness dwelling within all beings. The lamb is often seen as an emblem of this innocent purity and I find it very nourishing to spend time in the meadows at spring time around the lambs and sheep. Have you found that there is something that the lamb signifies or awakens in you?
Lamb of God mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale (built A.D. 547) in Italy.
'Le Bon Pasteur' by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
These themes of holy blood and chalices can be found in Glastonbury at the Red Spring in the Chalice Well gardens where red, iron-rich waters flow which are said to have healing properties. According to legends, it is thought that the Chalice well was the site where Joseph of Arimathea hid the chalice that had captured drops of Christ's blood at the Crucifixion. In the twelfth century, Robert de Boron wrote that this chalice was from the Last Supper and thereafter the legends of the holy chalice and the grail became intertwined.
'The Holy Family with a Lamb' by Raphael, 1507
'Innocence' by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
'Una and the Lion' by Briton Rivière (1840-1920)
There are many legends associated with the holy grail in Glastonbury including the mythology of King Arthur who is believed to have been buried in the grounds of the abbey. The grail is also associated with the Fisher King - according to this myth, the land was ailing and fell into wasteland after the king was wounded; it was said that he and the land would be restored to health when asked a certain question - 'whom does the Grail serve?' This story reflected upon an ancient Celtic theme of there being an intrinsic bond between land and ruler.
“The land ails because it is out of relationship with the Grail, it is out of relationship with the great story.” Martin Shaw, ‘Snowy Tower: Parzival and the Wet, Black, Branch of Language’
'Lady of Avalon' by Caroline Lir
'Deva of the Well' by Georgia Lambert
In the Arthurian romances, the ‘Holy Grail’ was understood as an elusive object or goal with great spiritual significance and author Richard Jones once wrote in 'Myths and Legends of Britain and Ireland': “The grail has been described as a cup, a dish, a stone, a floating altar, a bloodline and an idea. It has been sought after, discovered, lost again, recovered again, but has refused to be codified or placed within a framework which could successfully contain it.”
Lambs recently rescued at Surge animal sanctuary - images from Surge.
“One is not a great one because one defeats or harms other living beings. One is so called because one refrains from defeating or harming other living beings.” The Buddha
Earthling Ed and Eric (who was rescued at 10 weeks old) at the Surge Sanctuary (Image from veganfoodandliving.com)
The film of this script can be found on YouTube: