Journey to Orthodoxy:
Losing the Sense of the Sacred

by Thomas Katsampes

October 7, 2007

In today's culture we seem to have lost the sense of the sacred. People don't often dress as they should when entering a church. Church buildings, instead of being set aside for holy use, are used for other purposes and jaded ("My Father's house is a house of prayer, but ye have made it a house of merchandise"). In the secular world as well there remains little sense of the sacred. "Sacred" means "separate." What is sacred (or holy) is separate, or set apart, for special use. People don't use fine china every day. These plates are set aside for special occasions. In fact, people often go to great lengths to protect their fine china by purchasing a buffet table with a glass hutch or putting the china in a glass case display, such as a curio.

If we use our fine china every day, in addition to the increased risk of breaking or chipping an heirloom-quality plate, we would soon grow tired of looking at it. That is, it would no longer be special for us. It would no longer be something that we set aside for a special use, such as Christmas or Easter dinner. It would be "everyday dinnerware." That's obviously not the purpose for which it was intended.

Music also falls into this category. Even though Saint George Greek Orthodox Church runs an internet radio station where they play music similar to what you would hear during a church service, I noticed that if I listened to that music - as beautiful as it is - all the time, or even a lot of time, when I actually get to church the music will no longer be special, exclusive to a worship context.

This is also true of the icons. Icons are sacred - that is, set aside, for our contemplative reflection while in church. If we put icons on the walls at home, why should we then go to church to reflect on the examples of the saints when we can do so from the comfort of our living room?

What other things are there about our church service (and spiritual life in general) that we replicate at home?

Obviously we ought to seek to emulate the character traits of Jesus Christ. This never grows stale. But I speak of the audible and the visible. It may be worthwhile to occasionally turn off that chant, or the church hymn we love to listen to on CD, and flip on some classical or easy listening, so that when we do hear our favorite hymn in church, it's not the same song we were listening to from Monday through Friday.

Part of the reason we go to church is to experience what we do not experience during the rest of the week. The more we try to recreate church at home, the less of a reason there is to go to church.
Journey to Orthodoxy
God Became Man and other thoughts
Thoughts on Mary
Visiting the Church
Returning to the Church
The Communion Question
Losing the Sense of the Sacred
Conversation with Fr. Tom
Icons and Worship
Differing Viewpoints
Can we truly know?
Faith and Works
Child Baptism