ON SACRED SPACES

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. And he taught, and said to them, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.’” (Mk 11: 15-17)

 

In an episode of “The Walking Dead,” there’s a scene in a church, where a priest says, “This is the house of the Lord,” and another character replies, “No, it’s just four walls and a roof.” It made me think of this well-known passage in the Gospels, in which our Lord so vehemently defends the ”sacred” (dedicated) space of “His house.” Precisely because it is not “just four walls and a roof.” It has a special purpose, dedicated to being “a house of prayer.”

 

Is that necessary “for God”? No. It is necessary “for all the nations,” for us. Because we exist within time and space, we are in need of “order” (“taxis” in Greek) in our times and our spaces, lest we lose ourselves in a chaos of “everything goes” in any place at any time. This kind of order is increasingly difficult for us to maintain in our Internet Age, in which “everything goes” online, 24/7, all the time and everywhere. But the ancient wisdom of our Tradition, defended by the Lord Himself, maintains for us the sanity and order of especially-dedicated spaces (and times) for especially-vital expressions of our humanity, like our worship of God.

 

This is why, in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, we also pray for the “holy (dedicated) house” in which we gather. Let me remember this, when at Divine Liturgy I’m called to do so: “For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.”

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