Most of the slim paperback re-issues of John Howard Yoder's work have the symbol of the victorious Lamb slain displayed on the front cover. It is a powerful image going back to the early church, but re-appropriated within traditions which emphasise peace, peacemaking and non violence. The Book of Revelation has in the midst of the throne, not the emperor, and not the image of power, might and force, but the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. I guess that image is just too subversive, too threatening to power, too ludicrous as a political vision, and just too impractical as a religious option, for it to have had widespread adoption as a central motif of Christian theology, spirituality, ethics or political practice.
My latest tapestry, which is being worked for a friend who stands within that tradition, is an attempt to work this image using purple, gold and red, and framed in a broad goebelin stitch border incorporating these colours representing sacrifice, love and majesty - thereby subverting the majesty of power by using its primary symbolic colours of power and spectacle to convey an entirely different kind of power, strength and purpose.
"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." I still remember those days at college working through C K Barrett's commentary on John, and fumbling my way through the Greek lexicon, comparing the uses John the Evangelist made of that great invitation and command to see, "Behold...." - it's a good word, a take your time word, a get ready to see something new word, a would you stop twittering and tweeting and start looking at life with eyes open and mouth shut long enough to hear and see life changing truth. "Behold!".
One of the by products of freehand tapestry is a process that combines contemplative patience with creative practice. Bringing a symbol into being as a manufactured (ironically the word means made by hand!) artifact is itself a form of beholding, a way of not only seeing but of expressing vision, a slow intentional absorption of the varied meanings and memories of a symbol that resides deep in the mind and heart of the Church.
(The painting is Caravaggio, John the Baptist Holding a Sheep).