What is sacred Space? What does it mean to enter sacred space? How is it different from ordinary space?
Sacred space is not created by human beings. Sacred (holy) space is due to God’s work, God’s self-revelation. Identifying sacred space does not mean that God is “more” present in one place than in another, but that a divine encounter can occur in specific places, in specific times. God was not more present in the burning bush and less present elsewhere. God chose that place and time for a particular purpose and grace: to call Moses into a divine revelation and mission.
A sacred place can be understood as any place God chooses to reveal Himself and give grace to His people. It is the place to which people go, knowing that God is self-revealing and self-giving.
Throughout the generations God’s people have set apart places of divine revelation for sacred purposes. The word “sacred” (holy) means to set something apart from all other similar things for a divine purpose. For us, space is dedicated (set apart) from other places for prayer and Sacraments.
Remember the story of Moses and the burning bush? As Moses approaches the bush (it is not consumed by the fire) God tells Moses to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. Sacred place (holy ground) is a place of meeting, where God meets humanity.
Holy Ground is where God is made manifest in a most intense and specific way. The Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Temple in Jerusalem, the synagogues where Jesus taught; these are examples of sacred space.
As Christians, we understand our worship space as sacred space. We see it as space set apart from all other space for an encounter with the divine – an Easter encounter with Christ. We have set our space apart so God’s self-revelation can occur, not because He will not or cannot do so in other places (God can and does) but so we recognize space as God’s alone, not used for other human activities. We pray, believing that the Holy Spirit’s presence and action in that space reveals the Grace of Salvation, renewal, and God’s will and purpose for His Church. This is why we treat our worship space differently from the other spaces we have. It is a place set aside, dedicated to a very specific reality: the Word made flesh, who dwells among and within us.
If sacred space is where we encounter God’s self revelation (and it is), then what is the nature of this revelation?
We see God’s self-revealing love in the sacrament of baptism. We see God’s self-revealing love and grace as He feeds us with the spiritual food of Christ’s Presence in the Bread and Wine. God is revealed to us as we encounter the absolution given at the confession of our sins. It is this sacred space where we hear and understand the will and purpose of God in our lives and in the life of the Church.
When two people make their marriage vows, seeking the Sacramental blessing, they do so in our sacred space, reminding us of the sacredness of marriage. As we grieve the death of a loved one and still rejoice in the Easter promise singing “Alleluia,” it is done in sacred space.
Our worship space is sacred because thousands of souls have knelt in prayer, seeking an encounter with God. It is sacred because Christ is revealed, souls find peace, and souls have been brought into the mystical Body of Christ. It is the prayers of all the saints that have gone before us that enable us to recognize that as we gather in our worship space, we are truly standing on “holy ground.”
Sacred space is where God and humanity meet for revelation, redemption, and a call to serve in Christ’s name. Any place can be a sacred space as God is revealed and encountered. Having dedicated sacred space does not exclude other spaces from being sacred; in fact; it affirms the possibility. Sacred space is anywhere God acts. It is where we renew our sacred covenant and learn to see God in all places and in all times.
Sacred space does not limit where God is, but it does say we hope and pray for such an encounter in this dedicated and blessed space. Ultimately, it helps us to encounter God at all times and in all places.