We have been asked to look at the concept of 7 Sacred Spaces as a way of focussing on the way we ‘do’ Church and how we encourage others to join us. ‘What are the 7 Sacred Spaces?’ you ask – unless you came to the quiet day in November when you should know something about them! 7 Sacred Spaces looks at what we do in Church through the lens of the spaces that are important to Monastic Communities. So what have Monastic Communities got to say to the 21st Century?
Nowadays it seems we tend to compartmentalise our lives. Church on Sunday and work in the week or – if retired – various activities spread through out the week. How do we bring all of our lives to God; not just on Sundays? These 7 Sacred spaces help us to look at the way on which our lives can be brought together as a whole in the context of Church community. To help us to we realise that all Space is sacred – dedicated to God? These spaces will overlap and our time in one will interweave with our time in another because they are all in God. They can help us to assess which space has priority in our lives and where, maybe, we should spend more time.
We will look at Cell – the space we give to personal private prayer: Chapel – the space we give to corporate worship: Cloister – the space we give to meeting the community in which we live: Chapter – the space we give to decision making together and as families and individuals: Garden – the space in which we work, reflect, harvest and rest for deeper wholeness and harmony in our lives: Library – the space in which we study, develop and share our faith: Refectory – the space in which we share, celebrate, and welcome.
We belong are here because we have heard Jesus and want to develop our relationship with God through Him and the Holy Spirit. In the Confirmation Service it was said that:
All who are baptised into Christ are members of the Church, the Body of Christ, where we grow in grace and daily increase in faith, love and obedience to the will of God. In following Christ, you must be faithful in worship with the Church, in Private Prayer, in reading the Scripture and in following the commandments of God.
So all of us who have been baptised are to be faithful in prayer. We are to set time aside to be with God.
How do we do this in our busy lives? That will differ for every single person. We have to find a way that is comfortable for us. Comfort originally meant to give strength. This will differ at different times of our lives depending on time and need. There is no ‘One size fits all’ in any relationship and prayer is our relationship with God. I know that I found when I had small children this was the period in my life when it was most difficult to set aside time. They were up early – so no time then – they needed attention throughout the day – so no time then – and by the time they were in bed I felt too tired to pray! Quick arrow prayers were best then just to be aware of God and to bring our needs to Him. So where do we make the time and how best to pray? What is to separate us from God? We are dead to sin – separation from God – when we have died with Christ in our Baptism and risen with him and alive to God in Jesus.
In the Gospel, Jesus is telling His Disciples to proclaim what they hear of Him. We are to stay close to Him so that we remain spiritually alive with Him. We are to love him more than any of our close relatives – He is to have the priority in our lives because he has lived, died and been raised for us. He is God! When we don’t talk to our relatives relationships can fade – misunderstandings can fester and grow, and communication cease. Jesus will not force us to respond to Him but He will encourage us through His Spirit. The Epistle is encouraging us to be aware that we united with Christ in His death and are to alive to God in Christ Jesus and we keep this relationship in prayer.
One of our main ways of praying is Intercession, Supplication or Petition – all meaning that we are asking for the needs of others. This is important but a relationship does not develop with one way traffic. How do we do this in our world where there is so much need brought to our attention each day. One way I have read about is that while we are watching the News we see one needy face in the crowd and we might pray for that person as representative of all the others. It was also suggested to me that we make our prayers into a diagram or picture and when we are with God we lift that picture, and all it represents, to Him. Example!
There are many helpful books to get you started in prayer. But no book is helpful if you just read it but don’t put the advice into practice! I have printed out a list of TEN suggestions from John Pritchard’s book TEN. It is not exhaustive as it does not include the Rosary – beloved of Catholics though the book I have read on it is by a Methodist! To start prayer in Bible Study the Bible Reading Fellowship notes can be helpful and are available at the Churches Together Bookshop. There are different aids according to maturity, time and need.
Our individual prayer is also part of our preparation for our joint worship on a Sunday. We may spend part of our prayer week looking over the previous weeks readings from the pew notice or we might have looked ahead at the following weeks readings which are given on the back. In our prayers we can pray for the preacher and for the congregation. Maybe we should pray about who we might ask to attend with us, or pray for any new members that we may be aware of their needs when they join us. That we respect their way of approaching God and neither overwhelm them or ignore them after the service!
So think about your week. Where can you make time for God? By missing some TV, computer time or reading. Find a book which will help you learn more of Jesus and picture yourself in his company. Google Sacred Space and find the Daily Prayer of Irish Jesuits to give a short daily focus on prayer. Give your own prayer life a short time each day find a space which suits you – in or out side and refresh your life in God.