Where does Sacred Space begin?
Is it a physical space, set aside for prayer and contemplation? A place where we are asked to keep silence, except in those times we join our voices together? There are many places we can pray: in our homes, at our work, on the road, on the Lakes and in the forest. All places are good places to pray. We’re called to pray always in Paul’s letters, to make our entire lives a prayer, part of Christ’s offering to the Father.
I think Sacred Space begins within us. It isn’t a withdrawal from the world, where we concentrate on shutting out the world, but a silence that begins within us, a silence that isn’t overcome by noise or visual distractions around us, a Silence where we can empty ourselves of superficial thoughts, attractions, and worries so Christ can fill us. It isn’t a place where we are cut off from one another, but are present to one another in a way beyond words. Trying to focus on Christ without others is a contradiction, for we are called to see Christ in everyone, even those we are uncomfortable with. Sacred Space is a communion with Christ that deepens our awareness of God’s creation, where we can let God be God, we can let Christ hold us, and can let us see one another as God sees us.
How do we find Sacred Silence?
Silence is something many of us aren’t used to, and silence at Mass isn’t something many are comfortable with. We’re used to entertainment that has no dead air, no pauses, and if nothing is happening we feel shortchanged. Silence at Mass is time for digestion, to reflect on what we’ve just heard. Silence at Mass is time for prayer, to pray freely inspired by what has just happened. It doesn’t have to be library silence, strictly controlled by sharp glances, but a silence that begins from within, and it undisturbed by potential distractions. It is not passive silence, but silence at the edge of our chairs, at the edge of our souls waiting to be touched by God.
Silence can be entry into God’s Time, which shouldn’t be measured with a clock. It is a place where God can work on us, heal us, inspire us, transform us. The Silence we cultivate is a pool that God can stir, a space God’s word can enter, a beginning of prayer and praise, a stillness that foretells a great movement. Silence at Mass gives the seed of God’s word time to flower, and the digest the Eucharist we share.
Sacred Space is in the physical space of the Church; it is also all around us, and we are called to reverence every space as Sacred Space. Sacred Space begins within us, and comes from silence, even when we come together to celebrate Mass.
Can we find Sacred Space. Sacred Silence outside a Church? Oh yes, I’ve mentioned a few places in the first paragraph. When I meditate, I find nature a better icon than any other, especially a fountain or running water. Some places lend themselves better than others, but the real challenge is to find it in unlikely places. A waiting room, standing in a line, waiting for a flight to be called: all are places where we can enter the Sacred if we’re able. Many people can’t have distractions around, but the great ones of contemplation can enter Sacred Space in the midst of bedlam. Life goes on around us whether we want it to or not. We don’t have control over the world around us; perhaps the only control we need is over ourselves. Sacred Silence can even be had when distraction and noise is all around us.
The hardest place I can think of to find Sacred Space is behind the wheel of a car in traffic. Going down a rural Interstate can be meditative, and it doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to what’s going on around me. City traffic has too many distractions for me, not to mention great temptations to violate the virtue of Charity. I’m glad there isn’t a recorder going when I’m driving down I-435 in Kansas City: my language isn’t charitable, and I don’t resist it in the name of blowing off steam. But I shouldn’t be doing it, I know.
Losing ourselves in any task is a chance to enter Sacred Space, Sacred Silence. I think it’s a state of particular Mindfulness that’s always available to us, a refuge from the distractions we create for ourselves. It begins inside us, and can encompass anything.