"To be sacred or holy, means to be set apart. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we remove ourselves from the world."
To be sacred or holy, means to be set apart. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we remove ourselves from the world.
The Desert Fathers tried this. They were hermits that withdrew from the world to focus on the contemplation of God and deny themselves every worldly comfort.
One day, one of these hermits who had served God in the desert for so many years, prayed, “Lord, let me know if I have pleased you.”
Almost immediately an angel, a messenger from God, appeared to him and said, “you are not yet as holy as the gardner in the nearby city.”
The hermit was surprised and vowed to go to the city and find the gardener and learn what it is that he does that surpasses all the work and toil of the hermit for all those years.
He traveled to the city and found the gardener. He spent the day with him asking him about his way of life. In the evening as they were getting ready to eat, the hermit heard people singing bawdy songs in the streets, for the the cell of the gardener was in a public place.
The hermit asked the gardener “Brother how do you remain in this place and not be troubled by people singing these songs?” But the gardener replied that he had never been troubled or scandalized. “What then,” pressed the hermit, “do you think in your heart when you hear these things?”
The gardener thought for a moment and then said, “I consider that they are all going to the Kingdom.” The hermit nodded and thought to himself, this is the holiness that surpasses my labor of all these years.
In recent years icons have enjoyed a growing popularity. Iconography workshops abound and many people have them in their homes as devotional images. But this has also led to much discussion about what an icon is and isn’t. Differences in style aside, one thing that all proper icons have in common is that they are blessed for use in the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Rites, they are things that are set apart from the rest of the world.
A good analogy for the West would be the consecration of the sacred vessels used at mass. A chalice is after all only a cup. But when it is blessed for use in the liturgy, it becomes something else, it is set apart. From that point on it is used only in the context of the mass and nowhere else. It is sacred.
As followers of Christ we are a sacred people, “in the world but not of the world.” The word sacred, means to be set apart. As disciples we are expected to take up our cross and follow Him, “along the way.” But we are also called to keep our eyes on the light. Do not dwell on the cross or the suffering that we have been promised will be our lot. We may never reach our destination if we let ourselves be distracted by the obstacles in the road. Rather let us keep our eyes on the reward that awaits us at the end of our journey.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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© Lawrence Klimecki
Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit www.DeaconLawrence.org
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith
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September 11, 2021