What is Sacred?


This week two of our contemplative communities launched off on a new adventure. We are reading a few pages of my new manuscript for The Gate of Heaven is Everywhere! each week and responding with what speaks to the participants and what doesn’t. I have to say the experience has already been invigorating. Instead of being careful to only say nice things, like some people do in polite, white, Christian society, the group members spoke their truth. The discussions were enlivening. The questions were real.

One of the best questions came from Janet late in the evening group: “What is sacred? What makes something sacred? We use the word as if we all know what it means, but what does it mean?”

I love that question. Instead of presuming we all mean the same thing when we say a word, Janet was calling us to pause and reflect. She was asking us to look a little deeper. And pausing, reflecting, looking deeply is what contemplatives do. So here we go.

I suggested that the group take the question into our week and make it personal. The question is not only “What is sacred? but “What is sacred to you?”

This week we will be mining for gold. We hope to discover a treasure for ourselves first, and then we will return next week and share our riches with the group. This too is what contemplatives do: we search within for what means everything to us, and then we bring our discoveries to each other in community.

The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines sacred as “worthy of religious worship: very holy.” But not everything that is sacred to us involves religion, or worship, or even necessarily holiness. So we are back to the personal question: “What is sacred to you?”

As I looked over the collection of photos I use for this blog I saw the candle and thought there is something about simple candlelight that is a metaphor for sacredness. The image implies silence, stillness, and presence to me.

Anything that brings a sense of the presence of God can be sacred. Experiences that open our hearts can be sacred, (like seeing or being with the people we cherish). Revelation can be sacred, like when new light comes and profound understanding arises. Self-discovery can be sacred, like when we actually take a step of growth or transformation into being our true being.

Sometimes I look at my wife, and pause to pay attention, and I really see her. Her life is precious to me. Her life itself is sacred to me. So she could be a personal example of a larger truth: life itself is sacred, holy, of great worth and value. In fact, life is priceless. If our eyes were open right now, the eyes with which we see deeply into the nature of things, we might know that this breath we are receiving, the breath of life, is sacred. Which means this moment is sacred.

Which leads to this: contemplatives are on a journey of seeing the sacredness of each moment. We pray our eyes will be opened to knowing every moment matters, is holy, because we are receiving the gift of life. When we awaken to this astounding truth we are enriched and blessed. When we forget, which is probably most of the time, we are immeasurably impoverished.

I send you and me out into the world this day with eyes wide open. Open your heart. Taste and smell and sense your way to the holy. Set your intention to receive the gift of your sacred life today. And try not to exclude most of your experiences as un-sacred.

I am on my way to get a car repair, and then a tooth repair, and then to visit a church member in a nursing home, and then to help a church member lift his new flat-screen television into his apartment. Which of those moments will be sacred? Will I remember I am drawing in the sacred breath of life as I go?

Will you remember the sacredness of your life moments today?


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through Amazon.com; and of a blog on Wordpress.com, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (www.thescl.net), adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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2 Responses to What is Sacred?

  1. Suzanne Gould says:

    Very touching William. I love how you have always held Carol so sacred, and don’t mind telling anyone. Sounds like you had an interesting day, I’m wondering how God worked through you, no doubt you blessed more than a few people. Please keep Daddy in your prayers, our hearts break with his Alzheimer’s. I took him to the cemetery today to visit Mama’s grave. We take him once a week without exception. We were blessed with two sacred parents. Xo

    • soulcare4u says:

      Thanks for sharing this Suzanne, and when I heard about what all you are doing for Erskine each day and week I saw that you are all doing what I wrote about in the previous blog: “Hidden mercy and grace.” Doing acts of kindness in unseen ways every day must be sending sprinkles of light out into the world, which we really need, but I wish such tender and sacred moments made the news. That would give us all such a different sense of what life is about on this planet. Blessings on your daily service with a great guy.

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