the sacred and the profane

Posted on July 3, 2011


“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
― Wendell BerryGiven

As I sat in silence with Friends this morning, for an hour in silence, I settled into my depth; where my sense of presence was as deep as it was wide; waiting… listening…

As something began to emerge, I wrestled within between ego and inspired word. It this something that I want to say, or something that the group is being offered from a higher source than me? As the inner quaking settled into a resolve, I knew I must speak; I was being compelled to speak. The words came sacredfrom deep within, from the silence at the center of all things… that inner Light… that still, small voice. It was no longer about me… I was no longer me. I was one with everyone in the room; but the words came from something much greater that us. “I sense a sacredness in this group. But what does that mean? Is the sacred a thing… a place… that we come to? Or do we bring it here… or wherever we gather? And where does it go when we leave?”

As when I write (now and as always), I did not speak out to be understood, I spoke
out to understand. Words fell away into silence and loss… until more questions arose. “If something that is sacred is something that is set apart as holy, what does that mean? Is it something like fine chinaware that is set apart for special occasions but mostly relegated to life on a shelf?”

“But then… isn’t my whole life set aside for a special purpose?”

But then… my life is overtly ordinary in every sense of the word… bordering on boring.

What is this sacredness that I sense but I cannot speak very clearly of? Is it an overwhelming sense of purpose? A purpose that sets aside my whole life? But what purpose? To accomplish stuff? To get through this so I can do that? To make enough money to buy more things? And then work more hours to support and maintain the things that I have so greatly achieved?

Is sacred something out there… or something within? Maybe the sacred is the fire that gives light and meaning to the ordinary. Maybe the sacred is something that I bring to life; to every encounter, to every moment, to every word, to every action, to every reaction. Maybe the sacred calls to me and demands of me to create meaning in each day, each hour, each minute, each breath. Maybe the sacred is a deep calling on my life to live out the divine purpose that I was born with, using the gifts I came here with… making a difference.

Not missing anything…

Being fully present

Identifying purpose

in each moment,

each situation,

each encounter;

… infusing each with the fire of the sacred.

In every encounter we have in life with people or situations we are changed. We continue on as a different person, for the better or not.

If the sacred is a way of identifying how I live my life, what I do with the ordinary things of life; then what is the profane?

Could it be that any time I disrespect or disregard the sacred, then I am demonstrating profanity; living out a desecration of life?

Is it possible that profanity (like violence) is much deeper than a swear word, using God’s name in vain, or talking bad about the church.

Could profanity be contained in a reaction? A look? An attitude? A thoughtless act?

A turning away… from anything or anyone that I am called to pay attention to?

With new eyes, I now read these definitions:

Definition of SACRED

1: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity

2: devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose)

3. worthy of awe and respect

Definition of PROFANE

1. to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt :desecrate

2. to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use

3. an act of violence: to violate the identity or integrity of self or others

Related to PROFANE

Synonyms: abase, bastardize, canker, cheapen, corrupt, debauch, degrade, demean, demoralize, deprave, deteriorate, lessen, pervert, poison, debase, prostitute, subvert, vitiate, warp

Antonyms: elevate, ennoble, uplift

The words that jumped out at me as synonyms of profane are not the extreme words but the subtle words: CHEAPEN and LESSEN.

I must weigh in my heart, each moment of each day, whether I am entering into that moment with sacredness or profanity. Do I honor and value life and my purpose here or do I cheapen and lessen it???

In my life, is the sacred the fire, the desire, the light that gives life and purpose to EVERYTHING? Or not?

In Christian teaching, the symbolism behind the curtain being torn in two at Jesus’ death is showing that God is not separate and aloof from the ordinary things of life. The inner temple behind the curtain, Holy of Holies, where human meets God, is not hidden and it is not “out there” somewhere. It is among and within us. God is life and divine purpose. God is the fire of the sacred lighting our path on our journey; each step and each moment?

“We can not do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love” (Mother Theresa)

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” (Jean Vanier)

May I suggest this?

A Sacred Life = making the ordinary (all of life’s moments) sacred.

A Profane Life = making the sacred (all of life’s moments) ordinary.