Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Pastoral Scene

The Good Shepherd
From Christian Roman sarcophagus
c. AD 250
0.920 m. x 2.160 m. x 1.050m
Département des Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines, Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Good Shepherd
Lunette on the North entrance
c AD 420 -450
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

Albarello ( maiolica earthenware jar) : The Good Shepherd
about 1500-1520
Possibly from the Abruzzese, Faenza
0.245 m. x 0.160 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Our idea of shepherds and sheep have been influenced by thousands of years of the Pastoral: the complex life made simple; a rural life rather than urban; close to idyllic nature; Arcadia; the return to a past Golden Age of Harmony; Romantic rather than Rational

The pastoral world is presented as an idealised “good place” and becomes symbolic of the good life

The psalm "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalm 23) uses this imagery to depict God as the "Good Shepherd". It must be one of the most well known and popular of the Psalms.

David’s confidence in God’s grace.

A Psalm of David.

THE LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for
thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my
head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell
in the house of the LORD for ever.

On 5th October 2011 the Psalm was the subject of Pope Benedict`s catechesis

""The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want": thus begins this beautiful prayer, calling to mind the nomadic environment of sheep-rearing and the experience of a mutual knowledge that is established between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock. The image evokes an atmosphere of confidence, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows his young sheep one by one; he calls them by name and they follow him, because they know him and they trust him (cf. John 10:2-4). He cares for them; he guards them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to assure their well-being, and to establish them in peace. Nothing can be lacking if the shepherd is with them. The psalmist makes reference to this experience, by calling God his shepherd and by allowing himself to be guided by Him towards safe pastures"

The Psalm reminds us of Ezekiel 34

In the first 11 verses, God uses the prophet to chastise the leaders of the nation for failing to lead the people rightly in their walk with God. He suggests that they should have been shepherds, caring for God's flock, but instead had been feeding upon them for their own selfish gain.

God then says that he will be the Shepherd to Israel.

"11 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.

14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of

15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD.

16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. ...

22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.

23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.

24 I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.

25 “‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety.

26 I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.

27 The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.

28 They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.

29 I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations.

30 Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD.

31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.’