Sacred Spaces

I’ve always found it difficult to think of sacredness in terms of space (or time, for that matter). If sacredness is (as it is) a result of God’s presence in the world, I cannot see how space or time can limit sacredness in any way. Christ-God was crucified and buried outside the limits of the Holy City. Christ-God resurrected and ascended to Heavens outside the walls of Jerusalem. His work of salvation concerns the whole world, not just the ‘inside’ of a certain space, time, race, or even religion.

There is no ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ in our personal relation to our Creator. His presence is unavoidable, regardless of our own choices, and that presence can some times be perceived as hell. In some of his most intimate Psalms, St David writes about this unbearable tension between the desire to belong entirely to God, while feeling completely unworthy of it and longing for some way of disappearing from His presence: ‘Where could I go from Your Spirit, / Or flee from Your face?’

Holiness is not comfortable. To be holy is to burn, because God’s presence melts our sinfulness as fire, and we experience our sinfulness as part of our earthly selves – when God burns our sinfulness, He burns parts of our selves.

All the way up to His death and Resurrection, Christ was careful to make His message clear: He is present in His whole creation, and His sanctifying presence is not restricted to any of the limits of this creation. However, the sacred nature of creation comes exclusively from Him; God alone is the source of our holiness, Christ alone is our sanctification, as we confess at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

I suppose the point of all of this is just that: we are indeed sacred, creation itself is indeed sacred, but we must never repeat Adam’s mistake and see ourselves as the source of this sacredness. The snake in the Garden of Eden did not lie to Adam and Eve when it told them that they would be like gods, for we indeed are called to become holy, god-like by grace. The lie of the snake, its real temptation was to imply that Adam and Eve could reach their potential outside God’s will, through their own means, by eating that apple.

It is vital to remember and hold on to our high calling: ‘be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect’. It is equally important to remember and hold on to the awareness that the source of this holiness, the source of our own perfection cannot be ourselves, but our Creator alone. Ours it was to fall. It is entirely His to resurrect us.

— (Psalm 138) —

‘You fashioned me, and placed Your hands on me.
Your knowledge has become too wondrous for me;
It has become too overwhelming; I am unable to grasp it.
Where could I go from Your Spirit,
Or flee from Your face?
If I should ascend into Heaven, You would be there;
If I should descend into Hades, You would be there;
If I should take up my wings at dawn
And pitch camp at the furthest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand would lead me,
And Your right hand would hold me.
And I said, “Perhaps darkness shall cover me,”
But the night shall be light to my delight;
For darkness shall not be dark because of You,
And the night shall be bright as day;
As its darkness, so also shall be its light.
For you possess my heart, O Lord;
You took hold of me from my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
For I am fearfully and wondrously made.’

6 responses

  • Greetings from St. Timothy’s Fairfield, CA., Thank you for your emails. I love reading them and putting them into my life. Your sister in Christ, Lana

    • Dear Lana, thank you so much for your comment. I look back to my visit at St Timothy’s and it all seems like a dream – a wonderful dream, a long, long time ago. I am so grateful that we can still keep in touch and support each other, even if only via the internet. It reminds us to pray for each other, which is a great gift! Please give my love in Christ to Fr John and the rest of the beautiful people I met at the church.

    • Thank you for your comment, Your Eminence. Even more, thank you for your support and for your prayers. I try my best with everything, but there are many times when I feel the only thing pushing me forward are prayers: yours, my father confessor’s, my monastic brothers’ and the prayers of all the people who are supporting the monastery.

      Yours in Christ, as always.

  • Very beautiful, Father. Thank you. Our synergia, the part we play in “making room for God’s salvation” is infinitely smaller, as we are infinitely smaller, but nonetheless vital. We must be active participants, serving as His hands and feet and voice on earth, even as we empty ourselves of the ego (and the prideful belief) that got us into so much trouble in the first place!

    • Dear Miriam, thank you for your comment. I wish I could say I understood how this wondrous synergia works, but I cannot. It feels like a perfect, unescapable paradox. One the one hand, my salvation is entirely a gift. On the other, it is a gift I can waste, so there must be something I’m expected to do in order to avoid wasting it. I’ve been trying and praying for years to make sense of this, because it has direct, practical effects on our daily lives, but my time to understand has not yet come. One day, when Christ knows I shall make good use of it, this understanding will come.

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