My friend Joshua (www.trinitarianmission.com) first showed me this image on my front porch from his iPad. Joshua revealed to me the multiple layers of meaning in this mosaic.
Layer 1 – Acceptable Old Testament Sacrifices (from left to right): Abel offering his perfect lamb sacrifice to Yahweh (Lord God represented by the hand)(see Genesis 4:1-5), next the High Priest Melchizedek offering his acceptable sacrifice of Bread and Wine to the Most High God (Genesis 14:17-20), next Abraham offering his son Isaac as an acceptable sacrifice to God (Genesis 21:1-19). All of these three scenes are positioned towards what is occurring in the designated space below the altar, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross… where we now have a place at the table.
Layer 2: The Self-Sacrificial Offering of Christ (from left to right): Christ offering himself as the Lamb of God to God the Father, next Christ the High Priest offering himself to the Church as bread and wine at the altar, next God the Father offering his Son.
Layer 3: The Worship Space: Hearing my friend explain these different layers of meaning to me was really cool and then I looked up where this mosaic is from. It is on a side wall of the 6th-century basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Italy. The mosaic is from the 7th century and is positioned above where the Eucharist is celebrated.
So imagine coming up to take Holy Communion and there before you is this huge mosaic depicting these multiple meanings of sacrifice. The mosaic transports the OT narrative and the passion of Christ to our present consciousness … defining the reality of the sacred space before us at the table of the Eucharist. The square space below the altar (in the mosaic) is our place at the table, where Christ has made room for us.