What have we learned? • We have an understanding of how particular places and times come to be significant. Common Characteristics of Places of Significance Places of significance have at least three common characteristics: • They stand for or represent something. • Certain meaningful events happened there or are associated with them. • Because of what they represent, people continue to visit these places. Common Characteristics of Places of Religious Significance Places of religious significance are set apart because they are places of sacredness. • They may be the birthplace or the burial place of a religious founder or leader. • Apparitions or visions or other events of religious significance may have taken place there. • People gather there to pray, to meditate and to celebrate, either alone or through ritual. • They are places where people encounter God in a meaningful way, through prayer and quiet reflection.
• We can identify elements of worship. What have we learned? The Elements of Worship in the Sacrament of Baptism People gather to celebrate: The members of the community of faith gather together to participate in the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism. Rites and rituals: The priest leads the people through the rite of Baptism, which involves several different rituals. The main ritual is the actual baptism of the baby with holy water. Actions of significance: During the sacrament of Baptism, there are many actions of significance. For example, after the priest has baptised the baby with holy water, he anoints the baby's head with the oil of chrism. The anointing with chrism signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptised baby.
In a holy place: The celebration of Baptism usually takes place in a church. This is a sacred place within the Christian community of faith. Special events and times of significance: Baptism is celebrated to welcome a new member into the Christian community. Experiencing God and others in a meaningful way: Participating in an act of worship such as the sacrament of Baptism gives people the chance to take time out from their ordinary routine to spend some special time in a special place doing something very worthwhile and meaningful, i.e. welcoming new members into the community of faith. During the celebration of Baptism, people communicate with God and with others through rite and ritual. Afterwards, they go back to their ordinary routine, renewed and regenerated as followers of Christ.
What have we learned? • We have an awareness of the impact of the experience of mystery in human life. For example: We learned of how AnoushehAnsari (the first female space tourist) felt about her eight-day expedition into space. ‘As I gaze out I thank God once again for helping me be here and experience this. I have been thanking him for letting my inner voice carry out to you all and ask him to give me the vision to see my path in life and the strength to pursue it. These are the most peaceful moments I have had in my life and I feel a great source of positive energy. I have a hard time sleeping too long because I keep forcing my eyes open to just see this beauty and take it all in… only a second longer…’
• We can identify participation in worship as a response to the experience of mystery. Worship as a Response to Mystery For people of faith, moments of mystery build up their sense of God. They react with awe and wonder, and they reflect on their experience. This is also what happens during worship. Worship is a response to mystery – in this case, the mystery of God. Through their worship, people give thanks and praise for the gifts of God, and so their worship becomes an expression of ultimate concern or love. Acts of worship are a celebration of people's encounter with God. When people participate fully in rites and rituals (acts of worship), they are entering into a religious experience with the whole heart and mind. By so doing, they can encounter God or come face to face with God in a meaningful way.
Reflection as a Response to Mystery Reflection involves taking time out to think about and try to make sense of our experiences and actions. It is often only through reflection that we can find our direction in life. Pilgrimage as a Response to Mystery Pilgrimage is another religious response to the encounter with mystery. It involves a physical, spiritual and emotional journey of faith.
What have we learned? • We are aware of the place of sign and symbol in human life and in religious traditions. Symbol Symbols are more powerful than signs because they affect the way we feel. Symbols communicate experience where words are often not adequate. We don't usually just decide that something will be a symbol; it has to work for many people and draw a response from them because of the meaning it holds. Also, for a symbol to have any effect, its meaning must be understood. When faced with strong symbols, we discover new meanings in life. Sign A sign can be a word, a drawing or an action that provides information, for example, a road sign tells us the direction we are travelling in and that the next town or our destination is a certain number of kilometres/miles away. Signs should be easy to recognise and their meaning should be obvious.
The Use of Symbols in Religious Traditions Symbols and symbolic acts are used within religious traditions. They help people to appreciate and recognise the depth of their faith because: • they remind each religious tradition of their story (their religious history); • they help each person to encounter the divine in a more meaningful way, e.g. they can act as aids to prayer or communication with the divine; • they enable each person to overcome the limits of language; • they bring about a change in the person who responds to them.
We have an understanding of the power and meaning of religious symbols. Christianity – The Crucifix The crucifix is an important symbol of faith, hope and love for all followers of Jesus Christ. It symbolises their faith in the Trinity. Judaism – The Menorah The Menorah is a very old symbol of Judaism, which was originally used in the Temple in Jerusalem. It is a seven-branched candlestick. The central branch represents the Sabbath, the day God rested after creating the world. Islam – The Star and Crescent Moon The five points of the star symbolise the five pillars of Islam. The moon and the stars remind Muslims of God, the creator of everything. Hinduism This symbol is the written form of the sacred sound ‘om’. Om is a Hindu word used at the beginning of prayer and meditation. For followers of Hinduism, Om is a sacred syllable and it represents Brahma, an important Hindu God. Buddhism The wheel is the oldest of Buddhist symbols. The eight spokes represent the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. The circular shape represents the continuous circle of life and death.
We are familiar with the Christian understandings of sacrament and have a detailed knowledge of the place of sacrament in two Christian denominations.
What have we learned? • We understand the importance of prayer in the lives of individuals and in religious traditions. Prayer – Communication with God Prayer is a two-way process of communication between the pray-er and God. God is no longer in the third person, but is now addressed directly. This is a key characteristic of prayer. Prayer is not talking about God, prayer is talking to God. In other words, prayer is communication with God. The Importance of Prayer in Religious Traditions Prayer strengthens people's awareness of God in their lives. We know that all the major world religions communicate with the divine through prayer. In Section B, we learned of how Jesus taught people to pray. In Section C, we explored the Shema prayer and the prayer life of the Jewish people. We also explored the practice of prayer in the Islamic faith.
• We are able to differentiate between different types of prayer. The Nature and Function of Prayer in the Christian Tradition Christians divide prayer into four separate types: Thanksgiving To thank God for the blessings received and for the happiness life can bring is another form of Christian prayer. Jesus prayed: 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants‘ (Matthew 11:25). Praise Christians praise God through prayer. Catholics praise God especially at the Sunday Mass. Jesus prayed prayers of praise and thanksgiving: 'At the same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth”' (Luke 10:21).
Penitence Penitence is about saying sorry. Christians say sorry for the times they have hurt others or made the wrong choices. Before asking for forgiveness they must realise the wrongdoing and be prepared to make amends. Petition 'Petition' means to ask for something. Christians ask God to help them with problems. Prayers of petition are also said during the celebration of the Eucharist, for people in need all over the world. Jesus prayed prayers of petition. When he was in the garden of Gethsemane, he asked God to help him: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want’ (Matthew 26:39).
A Time to Pray Sometimes people find it hard to pray. Prayer needs practice, patience and persistence. Examples of important people in the spiritual traditions St Ignatius St Teresa of Loyola of Avila