Holy Places, Holy People

February 27, 2008

Yesterday, the Anchoress wrote Lent: The Searing Lesson, a post in which she self examines. We were taken by her remarks. We responded in a post titled with her own words, “Love cannot exist without pain.”

Her post startled us- and made us think about faith, belief and the daily struggle that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. As humans, our focus goes way beyond mere survival and reproduction- we want to be better people. We want to elevate ourselves and those around us.

People of faith who engage in the pursuit of the elevated self often engage in prayer or meditation, exercises long associated with the pursuit of Holiness. They ask God to help them in their journey. For many, prayer and meditation are more than a bit comforting. For them, those activities are the signs along the map of life that keeps them headed in the right direction.

People who are not so religious might say, ‘Why do I need to go to a House of Worship to be elevated?’ This is not a rejection of faith. Americans are only too happy to refer to themselves as ‘spiritual.’ They are less comfortable identifying with a particular religion.

Churches and Houses of Worship have been grappling with an often asked question: If God is everywhere, why go to a house of worship? The question is fair and the answer most often given talks about community, family and like minded people who share similar beliefs. When all is said and done, the response to the question usually given does not really answer the question. If it did, the matter would have been put to rest long ago.

The real reason to go to Churches and Houses of Worship is because with their confines, Holiness can be found.

We’re jumping the gun a bit, so we’ll answer the question, ‘What is Holiness’?

Holiness is many things.  We assign Holiness to time, as in Remember to keep the Sabbath Day Holy. We assign Holiness to objects. Sacred vessels, sacred scrolls and sacred relics. We also assign Holiness to places. Jerusalem and Temple Mount immediately come to mind as do other shrines, tombs and monuments.

Once assigned, the Holy designation stands.

People of course can be Holy too, but there is a difference. Humans, by our very nature, also pursue very mundane pursuits. We are not always engaged in sacred activities. We live very mundane lives and we must engage in very mundane efforts if we are to survive.

Holiness for human being can be defined as the state that is separate from the mundane. Holiness is the state of spiritual awareness.

To be engaged in the mundane, is to be in a state that lacks Holiness. This is not a bad thing any more than darkness, the absence of light, is a bad thing. The absence of light serves an important and critical restorative purpose for most of Creation. We sleep and rejuvenate ourselves, we find new strengths and each day, we are enabled to seek new opportunities to elevate ourselves and those around us. The absence of daylight only serves to help us appreciate what is possible when we have the light.

The absence of light is not valueless. Understood, it is a very precious commodity indeed. Think of it this way. Daylight is 24 carat gold, night time is 18 carat gold. Not as perfect perhaps, but valued and used wisely, 18 carat gold is precious indeed.

Most of us are not meant to live in an always Holy state. We each live in a world clearly defined by the sacred and the mundane. Our lives are lived in a dynamic and vast range of being- Holy when we commune with God and very mundane and further from God when fix the car or pick up the dry cleaning.

That is how it is supposed to be. Had God created us as He did the angels, in a permanent state of Holiness, we would be deprived of His greatest gift- free will. We are meant to earn Holiness every day, over a lifetime.

Our potential for Holiness is derived in how we see and understand Holiness. If we see Holiness in purely spiritual terms and the result of a direct connection to God, then very few of us will ever be Holy.

If we see God in the same way we see light, a reflection of the sun through the atmosphere that envelopes all of us, then Holiness is ours for the taking. All we need to do is go outside to fully benefit from the sun’s rays.

Once we accept our potential for Holiness, the purpose of prayer and Houses of Worship become clear. Those places we pray serve as a bright illumination for the path we must walk down, the path that allows us to reflect our unique Holiness.

It is true that we don’t need a Houses of Worship to find God or Holiness.

A House of Worship does not exist for God. A House of Worship exists to facilitate our potential. In the effort to regain Holiness after the ‘darkness’ of our mundane existence, a House of Worship offers us a place to remind us of God’s words and to reconnect with His commandments that serve as guideposts on the path that will elevate us.

It is also true that Houses of Worship are places that make our individual journeys easier. We embark on a trek with a sacred place, and sacred prayers objects behind us, acting a light filled mirror,  illuminating the first steps of our journey. We can take those steps with confidence because of the light that comes from within that House of Worship.

Darkness does not mean light is forever absent. There are places filled with light. Seek them out.

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4 Responses to “Holy Places, Holy People”

  1. Gentlemen:

    I am a lapsed Catholic who finds herself in a something of an odd conundrum. I don’t like the church, yet I feel mother hen-ish when anyone else criticizes the Her.

    But that doesn’t prevent me from contemplating the exact things you’ve written about.

    First, I have to ask you: “are people religious simply because they believe in God?” I hope the answer to this question is a resounding, “no”. I want there to be more to the answer. If you look up the word “religious” in a dictionary, we might only find it if we first looked up the word “religion.” This is true because to be religious, by definition, a person must first adopt a religion. However, if a person has not adopted a religion, by definition, they “cannot” be religious.

    Yet, many people believe in some form of God without actually adopting any form of religion. People can be spiritual and believe in some form of God, without adopting a religion. People can also be philosophical and believe in some form of God, without adopting a religion. That leads us to “faith”, which can be construed as another word for religion.

    However, faith can also be defined as belief in anything. If we believe in ourselves, we also have faith in ourselves. Whatever we “believe in,” we also have faith in. so we can “believe in” some form of God and have faith in that God, without religion ever being an issue.

    If we can apply chicken verses the egg analysis, as to which one came first, we can easily conclude the faith came before religion. People must first have faith, otherwise they would never have created religion. So, when a person adopts a religion, they then put as much “faith” in the religion as they put in a holy book or in their concept of a Supreme Being.

    So, in the end, they “believe in” the religion as much, if not more than anything else. The religion becomes the compelling force in their lives. Reverence to a Supreme Being almost becomes secondary.

    I think this covers fundamentalist Islam like a lovely prayer rug.

    And the Crusades

    And the Inquisition.

    And the Salem Witch Trials.

    And to me at least, this religious “confusion” is asfrightening…not to mention deadly for those on the receiving end.

    A house of worship…regardless of “illumination” is only as good as what is taught and advocated within it’s four walls.


  2. Obi's Sister Says:

    For me, a House of Worship is where I can go to recharge and be encouraged about my journey through this world by those who struggle with the very same things. That mutual support, sometimes only through prayer, encourages each one’s walk with God. Everybody stubbles. Everyday.

  3. [...] to this piece not once, but twice, Siggy demonstrates that he has been drinking the deep waters and he writes: A House of Worship [...]

  4. Matt Says:

    The truth is given to us in scripture as an exhortation by God for us to be holy, as he is holy.
    In order to understand what is meant by holiness, we have to go back to the root of the word.
    From the Saxon, we get the germanic word Ha-lig which means “wholeness/purity of light”.
    God in his place of abode, exists in wholeness of light, or spiritual purity. In his kingdom, which is heaven, no darkness exists or can
    enter. The heavenly places and the heavenly beings are seperated from the lower heavens because of their sanctity, or sinlessness.
    In short, God, Jesus and the angels are RISEN (perfect) spirits, while the unholy (imperfect) spirits occupying the lower heavens are FALLEN. They fell because they followed their father into the darkness, because he himself was cast out of the light.
    Man is sent into the world from the heavenly realms as a sanctified soul, which becomes enticed and corrupted during the lifespan by the spirits of the lower heavens resulting in that man’s spirit becoming progressively darkened (unholy). In this way, evil has dominion over the souls of men and keeps them in inner bondage, instead of the freedom of the heavenly realms.

    The task for man on the earth is to understand that he was once RISEN, but now, because he engages in SIN, has become FALLEN. Man is supposed to realise that the reason he does not have communion with God is that his very actions have caused seperation. This is supposed to drive him towards overcoming his fallen condition by fighting the good fight of the faith, resulting in spiritual victory over the oppressors.
    Salvation and divine spiritual union is pursued by those who understand and believe the blessings which are promised by God to those who follow Christ. Because the fallen nature results in disease then death, we are suppose to turn to God and walk the way of righteousness, when we become sick and depressed.
    We are not supposed to terminate our own lives, but wake up to the truth of our own darkened inner condition and submit to God for the healing of our souls.

    The church spreads a false message by claiming that the souls of men are doomed to remain fallen while on earth. If it was truth, then why would God sent Jesus to reveal the WAY to the FATHER, which is a living hope, or give us a hope that was false?

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