1. Gale

    The altar table is so beautiful. My only question is the bronze plaque and reconciling the lamb on the plaque with the decrees of the Council of Trullo: Canon 82:

    “In some pictures of the venerable icons, a lamb is painted to which the Precursor points his finger, which is received as a type of grace, indicating beforehand through the Law, our true Lamb, Christ our God. Embracing therefore the ancient types and shadows as symbols of the truth, and patterns given to the Church, we prefer “grace and truth,” receiving it as the fulfilment of the Law. In order therefore that “that which is perfect” may be delineated to the eyes of all, at least in coloured expression, we decree that the figure in human form of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, Christ our God, be henceforth exhibited in images, instead of the ancient lamb, so that all may understand by means of it the depths of the humiliation of the Word of God, and that we may recall to our memory his conversation in the flesh, his passion and salutary death, and his redemption which was wrought for the whole world.”

    Thank you if you could explain. Perhaps I misunderstand that canon.

    1. Aidan hart

      Thank you, Gale.

      I was aware of the canon and the theological reasoning behind it, and mentioned this to the Roman Catholic chaplain who commissioned the work and who requested the image of the lamb. In this case I decided to accept his request for two reasons:

      1. Although I myself am Orthodox, the Roman Catholic Church, who commissioned the work, does not recognize as binding the 102 disciplinary canons of the Council of Trullo. As the decree in question concerns the application of a doctrine – a tradition – rather than being itself a doctrine – Tradition – I did not insist on not using the lamb. The practical canons as distinct from the doctrinal canons of the Council of Trullo are somewhat problematical in that the council seemed intent on condemning any Roman liturgical or disciplinary practice which differed from Constantinople. There were in any event no western bishops present, except one Bishop Basil of Gortyna in Ilyria who falsely claimed to be a papal legate, so the council cannot be considered fully ecumenical at least in regard to its disciplinary decrees. The Orthodox Church has appended the Council of Trullo canons to the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, which had met 139 and 11 years earlier respectively (hence its other name, Quinisext Council).

      2. The brass image of the lamb in the Cambridge altar is very clearly related to the person of Christ which is depicted on the massive crucifix sited just a few feet behind the altar, the “figure in human form of the Lamb”. This amply satisfies the intent of the canon, which says that images should “recall to our memory his conversation in the flesh, his passion and salutary death”.

      I hope this helps.


  2. […] article continuation of my last post: Holy Tables with Reliquaries: A Short History […]

  3. Dear Aidan,

    As a Western Rite Orthodox Christian, I would point out that all too often I hear “Western” equated with “Roman Catholic” and therefore not Orthodox. The Western Church for a thousand years, until the Great Schism, was fully Orthodox and used the Agnus Dei as an Orthodox symbol, not as an icon but as a symbol, just as many modern Gospel books show the four Evangelists depicted with or by their symbols of the angel, the lion, the bull, and the eagle.

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