Sacred Spaces: Where Heaven Meets Earth & Earth Returns to Heaven
Part 3: Sacred Seasons
“Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; it is, primarily, the principle of growth and regeneration… Tradition is the constant abiding of the Spirit and not only the memory of words.” ― Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church
“Thou waterest the ridges abundantly, thou settlest its furrows thereof; Thou makest it soft with showers, Thou blessest its growth. Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness, And Thy paths drip with abundance.” – Psalm 65:10-11
Traditional Christians still follow a traditional Christian “Liturgical Cycle” which rings the year honoring Christ, His Mother, the Theotokos and other major events in His life with a circle of Feasts, Fasts, Liturgical Services and Sacred Traditions. For example, as an Orthodox Christian, I and all others of our faith are now preparing to begin the Nativity Fast, a fasting period of self-denial meant to help prepare ourselves for the Birth of Christ – His Nativity – Christmas. In Western Christianity, this season is called Advent and begins on December 1st. For Orthodox, we start preparing a bit earlier, on November 15th. As usual, I would like to define my terms. In this case, the word Advent, which basically means, “coming to a place, or state of being, arrival,” the word originating:
Middle English < Latin adventus arrival, approach, equivalent to ad- ad- + ven- (stem of venīre to come) + -tus suffix of verbal action. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/advent
Just as I asserted in my last post, “Part 2: Sacred Spaces & Thin Places,” that although the entire creation is sacred, holy, consecrated, that nonetheless, some places are “more” sacred than others. I also assert that although the entire cycle of the year is sacred, holy, consecrated, there are times which are “more” sacred than others. Although our Orthodox Liturgical New Year falls on September 1st, it is the Nativity Season, which comes at the “crowning of the year” that begins the story of our salvation.
Over and over, this story begins with birth, and ends with death and resurrection. It begins with the womb, ends at the tomb, and ascends into heaven. It tells us of an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes who will later become the man wrapped in cloth for burial. It show the pre-eternal Christ, born as a babe to a Virgin, resting in a manger, and ends with a man, hung upon the cross, then resting in death, before rising up and rejoining earth to heaven. This is the essence of the story of Christ; His purpose and intentions from before the beginnings of time.
There are some wonderful resources, books and such, to help us understand this holy time. One was written by Fr. Thomas Hopko, of blessed memory. It is entitled, “The Winter Pascha,” and should be pulled out annually, in my opinion, to refresh ourselves regarding the true meaning of this time of preparation for the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Here is just one brief quote, from Chapter 4: Temples of the Living God,” where Hopko shares:
“We are all made to be living temples of God. We are all created to be dwelling places of his glory. We are all fashioned in His image and likeness to be abodes of His presence. The first Christian martyr, the Protodeacon Stephen whose memory is celebrated on the third day of Christmas, was killed for proclaiming this marvel when he bore witness that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands.” For this, like Jesus himself, he was accused of planning the destruction of the earthly temple at Jerusalem (Acts 7:48; 6:14). The apostle Paul proclaims this same doctrine clearly and without equivocation when he writes to the Corinthians and to us that “we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor 3:9).
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are. (1 Cor 3:16-17)”
For those of you who may be more particularly interested in these reoccurring liturgical themes, there is an excellent podcast and transcript as well, done by Fr. Thomas Hopko and entitled, “Nativity, Epiphany and Pascha: Patterns of Worship” found on Ancient Faith at:
The Liturgical Cycle, Liturgical Services, Liturgical Traditions for Feasts and Fasts and Holy Days are all precious and well-thought out tools, gifts of the Holy Spirit revealed through the ages and aids to help us become sacred, holy, consecrated unto the Lord. All of these things help our own “earth” return to heaven. For those of us who are honest with and about ourselves, we know that “once” is not enough to transform our hearts, minds, souls and bodies. Salvation is both and at the same time an experience of “once” but is also just as truly a process. We need to be constantly reminded, refocused, re-aimed (repented) towards Christ, our only and most precious jewel, the pearl of great price. Orthodox clergyman and theologian Kallistos Ware shared in his wonderful little book, “How Are We Saved? The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition” the following story. He begins the book by talking about being asked by strangers on public transit, ‘Are you saved?’ His polite answer that probably leaves the inquirers nonplussed is, ‘I trust that by God’s mercy and grace I am being saved.’” See this book at:
Thus, even though the seasons and cycle of the entire year is holy, the fullness of the liturgical cycle is sacred, there are seasons within that cycle of timeless time that, in the context discussed in the last post in this series, become more “thin place” than others. These places are special aids, or tools, meant to assist us in time upon our timeless journey of our salvation. Again, as Kallistos Ware so aptly states:
“We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar; for it is a journey out of time into eternity” Read more at:http://www.azquotes.com/author/30381-Kallistos_Ware
So, for the next segment, I am going to backtrack only slightly, and delve a bit more into sacred spaces. Most particularly, in intentionally sacred architecture, sacred and symbolic objects and the like. After that, I hope to move forward again, and explore other ways that we can place ourselves into a life more conducive to the sacred.
Note: The wonderful illustration found here was developed by Dn Evan Freeman, who produced it for Fr Alexander Rentel at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and with was used recently at an OCA DOS Carolinas Deanery Clergy meeting.
SOURCE: Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo