Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vicit Agnus Noster

Today I was listening to Michael Card's Christmas CD, The "Promise". I do this as I work in order to block out the surrounding office noise. Suddenly I realized that I was listening to "Vicit Agnus Noster". One-hundred percent of my attention was on the music and the lyrics. I was transfixed, hyptnotised maybe. I became somewhat agitated as my three years of Latin education failed me as I tried to translate the songs title and lyrics. It was further frustrating in that I had gone through this exercise times before and I failed to stir up the mental powers to retrieve that which I had already commited to memory.

As I was soon to understand this was part of the plan. I opened Yahoo and keyed in 'Vicit Agnus Noster'. For some unknown but Spirit led reason, I bypassed the first three entries and clicked on the fourth one. I found myself on the Michael Card web page with the songs lyrics and a devotional from Michael Card. I was blown away by the simplicity of the paradox presented by Vicit Agnus Noster, our Lamb has conquered.

Here are the lyrics from the song.

Vicit Agnus Noster

Vicit Agnus
Vicit Agnus
Noster eum sequamur

Did Abraham himself not say
God would provide a lamb
To take instead the punishment
That should belong to man

And so to humble shepherds
Was His glory first revealed
And with His birth a covenant
Made long ago was sealed

Vicit Agnus
Vicit Agnus
Noster eum sequamur

Out of His dark obscurity
The Light of God has shone
And through the meekness of the Lamb
God's strength would be made known

The just and gentle Promised One
Would triumph o're the fall
And conquer by His own defeat
And win by losing all

Had I been able to recall the Latin translation of 'Vicit Agnus' I would never gone to Yahoo and had I not gone to Yahoo I would not have been touched by Michael Card's devotional on the subject. Following is the devotional as written by Michael Card. "Vicit agnus noster eum sequamur." - Dan

(vicit agnus noster eum sequamur is an ancient Latin motto which means, "our Lamb has conquered, Him let us follow.")

Should the motto not read, "vicit leo noster eum sequamur," "our Lion has conquered, Him let us follow?" What is the meaning of the motto as it stands? "Our Lamb has conquered." How is it that we have come to follow One who is predominantly represented as a lamb? Where does the paradox come from that teaches weakness is strength, defeat is victory and poverty wealth? The paradox is rooted in this disturbing image of the conquering Lamb.

Throughout most of the Bible He is not the lamb who conquers, but the one who is Himself conquered. In the Old Testament the lamb is the helpless, innocent substitute and sacrifice. It is slain to be consumed. Its' blood is splattered on the doorposts to mark the homes of the faithful so that the angel of death will 'Passover'(Ex.12). The Old Testament lamb is victim not victor.

Likewise, throughout most of the New Testament, when the Lamb of God appears He seems the most unlikely candidate to conquer. He is born in a stable, like a lamb. He is first recognized by shepherds who themselves have just come from the fields and the birthing of other lambs. Except for a couple of incidents, primarily at the Temple when His "lionish" side surfaces, He is the innocent even weak lamb. He is finally apprehended at Passover and slain precisely during the three hour period when the other Passover lambs are being sacrificed, his own forsaken cries echoing together with the helpless bleating of those other sacrificial lambs. According to exact ritual observance the bones of the Lamb are not broken in the sacrificial process, ironically by two soldiers who couldn't have cared less about ritual observance (Jn.19:31-36). And even as the other lambs are eaten so He had earlier instructed His disciples to consume the bread that was His body. At the moment of His resurrection, when we might expect to hear the roaring of the Lion of Judah, we instead hear nothing but the confused shouts of the women witnesses, whose testimony would have been unacceptable in their own society.

It is not until the close of the New Testament in the book of Revelation that the Conquering Lamb appears. Though still portrayed as being slain, He is yet the One who has conquered.

In the first scene in chapter 5 John is standing amongst a great crowd witnessing an angel flying about with a scroll which no one, it seems, is worthy to open. So caught up is John in the vision that he begins to weep. He understands that if the scroll is not opened history itself cannot unfold.

Then one of the elders standing alongside John in the midst of the great crowd says to him, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah... has triumphed...!" "The Lion" says the elder. So John looks up, blinking back the tears expecting to see just that. But what does he see?

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain..." John sees not a lion but a lamb, a triumphant Lamb, sitting on a throne. The unfolding of the image of the conquering Lamb has begun.

The second scene is from chapter 17. John has been transported to the desert where he sees a woman, a prostitute, astride a detestable scarlet beast. A conflict is about to erupt between her dark forces and the Lamb.

v.14 "They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is King of kings and Lord of lords- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."

The final scene, in chapter 19, takes place amidst the roaring sound of a great multitude in heaven. It is the long-awaited marriage supper of the Lamb, the final consummation of a romance that will last forever between the Lamb and His followers, His Bride. The context is exultant worship. The opening words of the thundering multitude "Hallelujah!" The conquering Lamb is finally wed. History has come to full blossom. It is the Kingdom. It is heaven.

Christmas, the celebration of the first Coming of the Lamb, looks back to the humble stable and the simple shepherds. The setting is a dark, fallen world. He has come to expose through his weakness the impotence of what the world calls power. He has come to show us that it is we who are upside down.

In that sense, Christmas is a preparation for the celebration that will be the second Coming of the Lamb triumphant. The contrast between the settings of the two Comings could not be more extreme. Instead of a silent stable and a bunch of motley shepherds, there will be a resplendent multitude whose praise can only be described as a "roar."

Oh Lamb of God, innocent, helpless One, born in a stable, held in shepherds' arms, sleeping in the hay. You are the Lamb, our Lamb, meek, gentle and spotless Victim.

Yet you are the Lamb victorious. You have conquered sin and death. You have overcome the evil one. The throne is Yours. The glory Yours. We look up to see the lion and yet it is still You that we see, both reigning and slain. And You bid us follow.

This Christmas make us mindful of what Your first Coming means. Enfold us in the paradox that is the wisdom of it. Let this Christmas clear our vision so that we might look ahead and upward to Your second Coming. Let us await, a faithful Bride, longing for the feast.

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