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Catholic Dictionary




A symbol of Christ. Rendered in many forms as early as the fourth century. Various aspects show the animal balancing a staff by its right front leg, with a wound in its chest pouring blood into a chalice, representing Christ's Blood in the Passion; the staff bearing a flag signifying Christ's victory in the Resurrection; the lamb resting or standing on a closed book with its seven sealed streamers symbolizing Christ as the judge. The lamb is the emblem of docility; "harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth like the lamb that is led to the slaughter house" (Isaiah 53:7). But the lamb triumphant is portrayed symbolically in the song ascribed to St. Ambrose, "Now at the Lamb's high royal feast," and St. John speaks of the wrath of the Lamb when the sixth seal is broken. As an emblem of St. John the Baptist, it is found in Chartres Cathedral on a banner that reads "Behold the Lamb of God," referring to Christ, "Who takes away the sins of the world." St. Agnes, the child virgin and martyr, is also symbolized by the lamb.