Saturday, January 5, 2008

8 categories of the sacred

What makes a space sacred? Is there one defining criteria for a space to convey or reflect the sacred? For some it is location. The sacred must be in a distinct place. That understanding is called by many geopiety; a certain place is more holy than another place. We see that regionally in the USA when people yearn for "home" places where their family comes from, places with deep meaning and story. Globally we see that in Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem, Kyoto and Nara, Rome  and other world centers for religions. 
For others, the sacred must have certain personalities, certain persons to teach, preach, lead and infuse gatherings with their charisma. In western celebrity drenched culture, stars of all sorts gather adoring crowds around them. From Rick Warren to the Pope, people cluster around personalities.
Others require the sacred to have a specific sound and a musical style. That again varies by taste and preference for Gregorian chant sung in Latin to Jars of Clay chorusses. Music is a highly volatile topic for many, who long for one type of music and disparage other types of music. Many of us have gone through worship wars with committed and intense people advocating their brand of sacred music.
As I reflected on the sacred, read the Bible straight through twice, underlining all references to sacred space with note in the margin that looks like this: "Ssp", and visiting 29 Romanesque churches in France over the years since 2000, I propose 8 realms of sacred space that must be in a relationship with each other. Over the next months I hope to make a case for each of these categories in a distilled form that invites comment and feedback. There may only be 6 categories or there could be 13 categories. I've landed on 8:
1. Transcendence
2. Immanence
3. Prayer
4. Leadership
5. Safety
6. Time
7. Beauty
8. Meaning