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I had stumbled into something for which I was unprepared. I'd opened the door and God had walked in, just as the youth leaders suggested.
What, I wondered, were my new obligations? Did God expect me to commit to Christianity and turn my life over to him?
Instantly, I knew I did not want to do that. Sadly and fearfully, I felt myself refuse. My refusal disturbed me, even more than the answered prayer.
Except for my sister, I told no one about the experience. I wanted to forget it. I stopped attending the youth group.
I began a life on the run as a spiritual fugitive. Throughout my teens and into my adulthood, I played cat and mouse with Christianity. I was drawn to churches and other places of worship.
I visited them whenever I traveled, and I found the services moving. Yet, I had nightmares about darkened churches. I felt a strong aversion to anyone who proselytized.
I resisted all pressure to see God in a specific way or to adopt a particular set of beliefs. The Catholic cathedral I attended in my 20s was an unexpected Switzerland.
While I enjoyed the services, Catholicism was not a threat. I knew I could not convert; Catholicism was too much at odds with my upbringing.
I could keep my ambivalence and stay in the shadows. I fully expected to live my entire life feeling like God's black sheep. But eventually I was saved by another gift from my mother.
This was my tendency, which grew as I matured, to interpret narrative in terms of symbolism and archetype. One day, I realized that I had something in common with many of my therapy clients — I was still interpreting childhood events with the mind of a child.
When I thought about my prayer experiment, I was once again a frightened year-old, interpreting the experience in concrete terms.
That part of me still believed I had offended God by never really joining a church and by failing to embrace Christian doctrine. When I turned my adult mind to the event, I realized how childish my reaction had been.
I had reduced a genuinely mysterious event to a single, cartoonish interpretation. Moreover, I had missed the emergence of a symbol with great personal meaning for me.
Churches, for me, are multilayered and magical places, regardless of belief systems. I'm moved by the human effort, imperfect as it is, to connect to concepts of the divine.
And I resonate to the places and rituals that serve this effort. This Christmas, my family and I will not attend a church service.
We haven't for years. But we will relish the connection with each other and our best selves. We will walk together in the hills, taking in the winter beauty.
And I will allow myself the joy of knowing that when we seek what is holy and fine, we are always at church. Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Sheep, lambs and Sheperds are present in these religions in many symbolic ways, perhaps more so than in other religions. Sheep and shepherds are mentioned times in the Bible.
A lamb was therefore seen as a fitting sacrifice to placate, demonstrate faith and obedience or to obtain the more highly prized favour of God.
As already mentioned a ram was sacrificed instead of Abraham's son Isaac. According to this tradition as a test of his faith God demanded that Abraham sacrifice his son, but before he was able to do so however an angel intervenes, and a near by ram is sacrificed instead of Isaac.
In the Islamic tradition, founded by the prophet Muhammad — A. Allah intervened as Abraham was about to perform the sacrifice and instead Allah provided a lamb as the sacrifice.
The Festival begins with a prayer and a sermon. People dress in their finest clothes. Those who are able to do so are required to offer their prized animals at about one year of age, usually a sheep, but cattle, camels and goats also are acceptable.
The Qur'an states that the meat is divided into three shares: It is required that a large portion is given to the poor. The drinking of animal blood is forbidden.
The old testament also refers to sacrifices of lambs as a means of atonement for sin, 32 If you offer a lamb instead of a goat as a sacrifice for sin, it must be a female that has nothing wrong with it.
In other words in the Judaic tradition sin could be forgiven by the shedding of the innocent blood of an unblemished lamb.
In a similar way Christians would come to believe that they were freed from sin by the blood of Jesus, the unblemished lamb of God, and this is why Jesus is referred to as the lamb of God.
There is no reference in the Old testament that animal sacrifice was the only means of atonement and instead teaches that it is possible to atone for sin by prayer and repentance alone.
In fact according to Judaic belief atonement may be achieved without recourse to animal sacrifice, which in modern times is not generally practiced.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, Psalm The symbolism of sheep or lambs is an important part of the Christian Tradition.
Jesus is often referred to as a Shepherd and his followers as a flock. For instance in the bible: As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.
This commandment have I received of my Father. Jesus is also given the title the Lamb of God. As already mentioned earlier, in the Christian tradition the ultimate mission of Jesus to die on the cross to atone for man's sin, is analogous to a sacrificial lamb.
In Christian churches you will often see the imagery below: Agnus Dei is a Latin term meaning Lamb of God, it refers to Jesus as the the perfect sacrificial offering that atones for the sins of humanity.
The cross usually rests on the lamb's left shoulder and held in his left foreleg. The cross may have attached to it a banner, most often red similar to the George cross, but as with the picture above the crosses may be rendered in different colours.
Agnus Dei may be found in many comparable forms depicted on stained glass windows, kneeling cushions and heraldry as those shown below. Blason ville fr Aussonne Haute-Garonne.
In both Catholic and protestant Christian churches the Agnus Dei is the invocation to the Lamb of God sung or recited during the distribution of the Host, the Bread and wine used to represent the blood and body of Christ.
The death of Jesus on the cross was according to Christian tradition a sacrifice for sin and here the culture of sacrificial offerings continues as Jesus is compared to a sacrificial lamb.
In Greece and Romania, Easter celebrations include a meal of Paschal lamb. Sheep and lambs are included in Christian iconography, for example on stained glass windows such as those below.
Many Christian saints are considered patrons of sheep and shepherds for example Sts Bernadette of Lourdes, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Dominic of Silos and Regina to name just four.
Unlike the Abrahamic religions sheep have less signifcance in Buddhism. However in the Chinese Buddhist tradition a ram was said to be present at the birth of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama — B.
In Tibet at new year, a ram which represents the faults of the previous year is released for the new year, symbolically taking with him last year's faults, although this may stem more from the shamanic religions practiced in Tibet prior to the introduction of Buddhism in about AD.
As in the above example The ram is seem as an expiatory animal: Also in Tibet there is a ritual which involves driving a sheep around the monastery walls by a pilgrim practicing devotional circumnambulations.
Such practices are undertaken to gain merit and mitigate or improve ones Karma. There is an old Tibetan saying: It is better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.
This generally refers to the timidity of sheep and often quoted in reference to fear. Although Buddhism is the predominant religion of Tibet and other Himalayan countries the sheep is exploited for his wool, skins, meat and milk.
In the treeless barren terrain of Tibet their dung is used as fuel. Their horns are used as needles and their guts as thread.
Along with yak, sheep are used also as pack animals. As already mentioned sheep seemingly have little religious significance in Buddhism however as a major part of the Buddhist ethic most Buddhists consider the life of an animal as equal to that of a human and this of course includes sheep.
In Buddhism there are five precepts codes of ethics , although in some traditions there are up to ten. Buddha taught these from compassion and as a means of improving society and to aid followers along the path to enlightenment; the Buddha taught that animals where like humans in that they where progressing towards a higher consciousness, towards enlightenment and would one day be humans or may have been human in previous incarnations.
Therefore Buddhists consider it wrong to harm any creature. The five precepts are more like voluntary ethical commitments and not considered as commandments as such.
There is some confusion at times as the logical implication of the first precept is that Buddhists should not eat meat and most Buddhists are vegetarian.
However in some Buddhist traditions this is not the case, in Tibet for example where the cultivation of crops is impossible due to climate.
Buddha himself ate meat which he acquired as alms or meals prepared for him by invitation of followers and it is Buddhist ruling for monks to eat what is offered.
However as time went on Buddhists began to feel uncomfortable with eating meat. In Hinduism Animals occupy an important place and are mentioned in myth and legend and are also included in the Hindu pantheon as divinities themselves; Hinduism is a polytheistic religion which includes many deities.
Animals are also the vehicles of these deities both Gods and Goddesses. The symbolism being the connection with Rams as typical sacrificial animals.
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