Passover Lamb: A True Story

by JesseRay on April 18, 2011

Contributed by Jesse Ray 4-18-2011

I arrived on the scene with my gun and stoically loaded in some self-defense rounds (although I was clearly not in danger). I did not lavish the idea of slaughtering a lamb, but my friend and new-farmer, Pat, called and sheepishly asked for some help. I guess he thought I was qualified since I had butchered last year’s deer with the help of my family.

It took a while for me to prepare the surroundings, I had never killed something so large, at such close range. During these few minutes I had time think about the gravity of what was about to happen.

Of course my mind took me back to the Jews and passover. Remember, the Bible is not just filled with stories, but with accounts of historical events. These events that we are familiar with actually happened. The Word of God prescribed, no dictated, the killing of a lamb. For the Jews, the lamb was not just dinner. The blood of the lamb was spread on the horizontal and vertical wood of the door frames (of course we recognize this as a foreshadowing of Christ’s blood dripping from His wooden cross).

Passover (doorpost)Exodus 12:21-22
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel, and said to them, “Select lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood which is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.

We all know that the consequence of sin is death, yet today we do not always see or feel that direct connection. Before Jesus, the Lamb of God, came as our final sacrifice, a cute, woolly lamb <baaa>, had to die in expiation for sins. The Jews symbolically placed their own sins on the head of the lamb before it was killed in Leviticus 1. The male sheep was chosen from the flock for its spotlessness, just as Christ, sinless and perfect, died for our sins.

We Catholics are blessed with the sacrament of confession, a very quick and clean way of cleansing sins from our soul. Well, let me tell you there was nothing quick or clean about killing a lamb. If we had to go through this every time we sinned I would expect people would either sin less, or would carry more sins around on their hearts.

I tell the following story, not for the sake of gore, but because it was a very raw and spiritual experience. You should stop here if the thought of blood makes you queasy.

I was compelled to pause, and say a prayer thanking God for this animal and for the gift of it’s life. At first it all happened quite fast: The the gun popped, a red spot appeared on the lambs head, the lamb dropped. I was glad that was over with.

What happened next surprised me. All living things try to avoid death, and even after the lethal blow, the lamb was not going to die without a fight. I apologize, for the detail, but far more blood than I expected began pouring out of the sheep’s mouth and nose. The famous painting “Adoration of the Lamb” by van Eyck flashed in my brain, (of course in the painting the sheep is standing, but the flow of blood is clearly key in the comparison).Adoration of the Lamb_van_Eyck_inset

My friend Pat, the instigator of this whole event, took action (and large knife) holding the sheep down with the full weight of his body and slit the throat. As more blood emerged it was clear that the bloody descriptions in the old testament will never be void of imagery for me anymore.

PETA people refuse to eat lambchops or wear sheepskin because of (I assume) the violence of slaughter. (or maybe they just need some cause to distract them from the evils of abortion and euthanasia that many support). Before any scriptural lessons, I think seeing that this tasty protein-source doesn’t start out in a Styrofoam package at Meijers is good to know.

But seriously, what kind of a “merciful” God would order His people to do something so violent and base? The answer points to the Eucharist, and is so deep that we need to understand God’s plan of salvation is exposed in history and recorded in scripture. Now we just need to know where to look.

My dad, Steve Ray, teaches about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and its Biblical foundations; he can speak for hours about the beauty and reality. Enjoy this audio sample about the passover lamb from a talk he gave in Ohio, April 2011. The whole talk, The Eucharist: Christ Present to Us, can be found here, and is really a great listen.

Pictures of the Lamb can be found here, They are of the actual event and not the sanitized American children’s version.

Happy Passion Week everybody. I pray that you will all draw closer to our Lord and find joy in His Cross and Resurrection.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean-François Virey April 19, 2011 at 2:13 AM

STEVE RAY HERE: I MODERATE MY BLOG AND ALLOWED THE POST BELOW BY JEAN-FRANCOIS FOR THE SAKE OF DISCUSSION AND TO SHOW THERE ARE SOME VERY FANATICAL PEOPLE TRYING TO CHANGE THE WORLD TODAY. I DON’T KNOW IF HE IS ONE OF THE “ANIMALS ARE PEOPLE TOO” TYPES AND AN EXPONENT THAT ANIMALS HAVE EQUAL HUMAN RIGHTS WITH PEOPLE BUT THERE CERTAINLY ARE MANY KINDS OF ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS PUSHING THEIR AGENDA. I FIND HIS COMMENT FALLACIOUS AND FOOLISH BUT POST IT FOR AN EXAMPLE AND FOR DISCUSSION. IF HE IS NOT THE RADICAL TYPE HE SHOULD BE MORE TEMPERATE IN HIS TONE AND WORDS.

JEAN-FRANCOIS WRITES: I find this article totally repellent. And as a vegan Catholic, I resent the idea that I “just need some cause to distract [myself] from the evils of abortion and euthanasia”, which I do not support. This is just a gratuitous ad hominem attack. You have no idea how many people you are turning off from Christianity because of such glorifications of animal butchery. More and more people are realising the horror of animal exploitation, and as they see Christians like you revelling in the gore or simply enjoying the food irrespective of the pain and destruction it causes, they come to despise our religion and simply apostatise. If your belly is so important to you that you can’t go without killing animals or having animals killed for its satisfaction, please just don’t brag about it. Keep it to yourself, and don’t turn such behaviour into the mark of a real Christian. Many Catholic saints were vegan, and I can’t think of a single one who delighted in killing animals the way you do.

Steve Ray April 19, 2011 at 8:31 AM

Steve Ray here. I was raised on a farm and raised animals to eat, and shot other animals who tried to eat them before we did. The idea of killing an animal makes Americans queasy like Jesse says above, but it has been part of human existence from the beginning.

We think of the Temple in Jerusalem (I happen to be there now looking out my window at where the Temple stood 2000 years ago) as a pristine and beautiful sanctuary when in reality it was in part a huge slaughter house with sometimes over a hundred thousand animals slaughtered for sacrifice and the smell of blood everywhere.

Jesus is our Passover sacrifice and all of the New Testament terminology is based on the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Jesse has tied the two events together in his explanation of a modern killing of an animal for food. There is nothing wrong with killing an animal to eat, though I would never advocate killing for blood lust or for the fun of purposeless killing. A lot of nutty people are out there now who think “animals are people too” and their nonsense is obvious.

Stephen April 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM

STEVE RAY HERE. I HAVE AGAIN POSTED A RESPONSE TO THE ILL-ADVISED COMMENT BELOW – FOR THE SAKE OF DISCUSSION. I HAVE POSTED A FULL RESPONSE TO THE COMMENTS AT http://www.catholic-convert.com/documents/Vegans.pdf

Jean-François Virey like yourself ranks among the brightest and most intelligent converts to the Church in recent years. Professor Virey is not ‘FANATICAL AND IDIOLOGICAL ILLOGICAL…ONE OF THE “ANIMALS ARE PEOPLE TOO”… ‘ANIMALS HAVE EQUAL HUMAN RIGHTS WITH PEOPLE…FALLACIOUS AND FOOLISH’ and so forth.

Firstly, I assure you Prof. Virey is completely faithful to the magisterium and his ‘Vegan Catholic’ Facebook group explores a profoundly Catholic veganism entirely devoid of New Age falsehoods. Nowhere in his comment above or elsewhere has Virey asserted animals are people or have human rights.

The following points are worth considering:

Scripture is fairly clear that in the Garden of Eden, mankind in his state of original justice, was vegan. Adam is likely to have shared Virey’s concerns about slaughtering one of the animals he was given charge over. There was no death before the Fall/curse. Indeed, there are prophetic verses showing that God’s ultimate intent for his Creation will be a return to how it was in the beginning.

There is an established tradition of Hebrew and Christian respect for animals. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is utterly alien to the mind of Christ. Many Catholic saints were vegan ascetics; I simply could not imagine St Francis of Assisi killing an animal and then waxing lyrical about the spiritual allusions.

Today there is widespread concern about animal exploitation, factory farming and animal cruelty. Many ordinary people now pay a little extra for free range eggs or ask questions such as should dogs be made to smoke tobacco until they get cancer or chemicals forced into rabbits eyes to test the latest cosmetic. Virey is right to ask will this gory article and accompanying bloody photography help the cause of Catholic evangelization. Does this technicolor killing broached in Temple and NT motifs present the right image to the lost post-modern humanists we are trying to reach?

You do Prof Virey a great disservice in your inaccurate and ill thought polemic. Your journey from the baptist sect was long and ardous and you now stand in an entirely different place. Perhaps you should study some of the Catholic literature supporting Mr Virey’s thoughtfully held and sincere beliefs.

tobin nieto April 26, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Why do vegans always feel the need to evangelize. Remember to be Catholic is to have a both/and mentality in understanding certain things. If God’s divine plan was for us to be vegan why did he give us teeth.

Bill912 April 30, 2011 at 9:08 PM

“Scripture is fairly clear that in the Garden of Eden, mankind, in his original state of justice, was vegan.” And it says this where in Scripture?

“Adam is likely to have shared Virey’s concerns about slaughtering one of the animals he was given charge over.” And your evidence is?

“There was no death before the Fall/curse.” And your evidence is?

Was Jesus wrong to eat lamb? Was Jesus wrong to eat fish? Was Jesus wrong to cause atleast 2 miraculous catches of fish, one of which resulted in the death of 153 large fish?

Lita May 18, 2011 at 9:05 PM

STEVE RAY HERE: I ALLOWED THIS FOR THE SAKE OF DISCUSSION. OF COURSE A CATHOLIC HAS THE FREEDOM TO EAT VEGAN. THE ARGUMENT IS WHEFHER IT CAN BE IMPOSED ON ALL. ANT TO QUOTE ST. BASIL WHO ATE MEAT SO OUT OF CONTEXT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

God gave us teeth to chew food. God gave us hearts so we could love Him, and ALL of His creation.

Please do not be so limited in your assessment of the vegan and vegetarian cause. From my perspective, the motivations for such viewpoints are fully in line with an ordered Catholic worldview. We are the stewards of this world and its sinless creatures, but we are raping, plundering, and mercilessly tormenting all that get in our path. We should be deeply ashamed. I recommend “Dominion” by Matthew Sculley for more insight on this issue from a very reasonable perspective.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Oh, God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life.” – St.Basil (Bishop of Caesarea) (330-379)

Lillian Santiago August 13, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Just a quick note about this article, surprisingly enough, without a very important detail. Just this last June, I had the wonderful privilege of traveling to the Holy Land with the young adults of our parish. We also had an excellent guide (Jewish) and considered a “walking encyclopedia” on all Jewish culture and history. Upon my asking about the slaughter of so many animals, our guide explained that there were special priest who were dedicated to this task so that all the meat would be “kasher” which we call “kocher”. They would have a blade with a perfect edge – it could not have any kind of imperfection. The priest would proceed to cut the jugular and the animal would not even know what happened to it. They would fall asleep as they bled and would then die. In fact, our guide explained to us that the next animal to be sacrificed was not permitted to see the other animal sacrificed because it would then not be “kasher”. I found this fascinating. Hope it helps a bit to understand that our awesome God never allows anything without a profound reason – in this case, awaiting the arrival of the perfect Lamb, which was Jesus himself. God bless you all.

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