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  • Writer's pictureBishop Mesrop Parsamyan

The Good Shepherd

In February 2020, I had the opportunity to visit the Vatican and Rome with a group consisting of clergy from Oriental Orthodox Churches. During our visit, we were taken to explore the catacombs of Rome.

These labyrinths of narrow halls span approximately 500 miles, and from the first century to the fourth century, Christians gathered here to pray and bury their dead. Archaeologists estimate that between 72 and 410 AD, around eight million people were buried in these underground halls.

The catacombs are adorned with impressive inscriptions, ornaments, and frescoes that predominantly depict Christian symbols such as an anchor, fish, dove, rainbow, and other expressions of faith, hope, and trust in God during the first centuries.

However, the most prominent and exclusive images found in the catacombs are the murals of the Good Shepherd. Interestingly, the shepherd depicted in these images carries a goat on his shoulder instead of a lamb. In Matthew's Gospel, goats represent sinners (Matthew 25:31-46). Early Christians recognized in the person of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd who even carries goats, or sinners, on his shoulders.

Indeed, God is the Good Shepherd who promised us, saying: "I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strays, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice." (Ezekiel 34:16)

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