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The Heart Longs for Holy Spaces | KFP Articles
The Heart Longs for Holy Spaces PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 21:09

What draws tens of thousands to Knock this past week and over the years millions to Knock, Lourdes, Fatima, St. Anne de Beaupre?  Even Medjugore with all the questions surrounding it has inspired millions to make the pilgrimage.  The human heart has a natural desire to seek such holy places, an encounter with God in a space truly set apart, a reflection of a new garden of Eden.

It was this same longing that led me as young boy, of about 8 years of age, to desire to pray with the ladies in the grotto room of our Church.  On the way out through the vestibule of our Church there was a small room off to the side where a few people would always go and pray after Mass.  There was a statue of the Blessed Mother and the faithful praying were very devoted.  It was a special room; I knew it and wanted to go there and pray.  Its probably best that my father prevented me from going as I would likely have spent half my time looking up in curiosity at the ladies praying.  But it did not keep me from desiring that holy space.  Its almost as if longing to enter that room was the beginning of my conversion to Christ.

What's so beautiful about our Catholic faith is that we recognize the existence of such holy spaces right there under our nose.  The Church down the street from our home has the potential to provide that holy space, a sanctuary where Christ is present in the tabernacle and the altar of our Lord is treated with silent adoration.  This, of course is most possible where the sanctuary is respected as the Holy of Holies, a sacred space where one enters with great reverence. Dino Marcantonio has some excellent blog posts exploring the holy space of the Church. In his post on the sanctuary he gives real focus to the meaning of the sanctuary.

Sanctuary as Christ's Tomb: The traditional apse form of the sanctuary images Christ's tomb which was located in a garden. Thus the sanctuary is to the church building what the tomb is to the New Eden: the place where the sin of Adam is undone. Garden imagery is therefore abundant.

The apse form of a sanctuary can be found in the above image from the sanctuary of St. Mary of Victories in St. Louis city. Viewing the Church as imaging the Garden of Eden reveals the deep sacramental view behind Catholic understanding of the Church building.  Dino Marcantonio posts on this issue are inspired by his readings on St. Germanus of Constantinople, an Eastern Rite Catholic.  It is the Eastern Catholic view of the sanctuary as the Holy of Holies that I find most interetsing.  It reveals an approach to the sanctaury that requires great reverence, something that is lost in many contemporary churches.  Here is a quote from Marcantonio's post on the Apse.

The dome is the classic symbol of Heaven as its shape imitates the dome of the sky. It is fitting as the Sanctuary is a little piece of Heaven. It is in the world, but not of the world, and so is demarcated, just as was the debir, the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Jerusalem. Says Saint Germanus: "The chancel barriers indicate the place of prayer: the outside is for the people, and the inside, the Holy of Holies, is accessible only to the priests. The barriers, made of bronze, are like those around the Holy Sepulchre, so that no one might enter there by accident."

The post on the sanctuary goes on to discuss the significance of the sanctuary in the east or west end of the Church.

READ THE POST FOR YOURSELF HERE. Its well worth every free penny to read his series of posts.


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