"I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, who own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees: and the wolf catches and scatters the sheep: and the hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and he has no care for the sheep. I am the good Shepherd: and I know Mine, and Mine know Me. As the Father knows Me, and I know the Father: and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
Today too in the usus antiquior the Communion antiphon also invokes this imagery: "I am the good Shepherd, alleluia: and I know My sheep, and Mine know Me, alleluia, alleluia."
In the modern Roman liturgy, these references take place on the Fourth Sunday after Easter (one week hence), where the gospel there is taken either from St. John, chapter 10, verses 1-10 (cycle A), St. John 10:11-18 (cycle B) or St. John 10: 27-30 (cycle C). The communion antiphon also, as in the usus antiquior, draws upon this imagery: "The Good Shepherd is risen! He who laid down his life for his sheep, who died for his flock, he is risen, alleluia."
The image of Christ the Lamb, of course, but also of the sheep is something one sees in many of the apse mosaics of the Roman basilicas (as well other churches elsewhere) and I have always quite enjoyed this particular and ancient symbolism.
Accordingly, today offers an opportunity to both provide a visual meditation upon this theme, while also sharing some of the great artistic glories of Christendom.
S. Maria in Trastevere, Rome
Detail: S. Maria in Trastevere, Rome
San Clemente, Rome
Detail: San Clemente, Rome
Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome
Ss. Cosma e Damiano, Rome
S. Prassede, Rome
S. Saba, Rome