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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sacred Sites

There are many belief systems in which sacred sites play a big part. A sacred site is a geographical location. As a concept it can range from a place where an event occurred, to a place thought of as auspicious; such as in the concept of geomancy, sacred geography, Feng Shui, energy centers, etc. These places are said to have a positive effect on the visitor; such as visions and messages from Mary, in regards to Roman Catholic sites, to healing energy in regards to New Age concepts.

One thing to note about sacred sites is that you are said to gain benefits from being present at a particular location. This seems to denotes randomness since the benefit comes from finding yourself at a certain location. What this means is that some people will gain benefit, and other be denied it, purely based on abilities such as the financial ability to travel to a sacred site.

In Christianity there are no magic tricks, no secrets and no sacred sites. Don’t misunderstand; yes there are Christians who believe in sacred sites, for example there are numerous Roman Catholic sites, but in reality and Biblically, there is no such thing. True, it may be exiting or even inspiring to visit the Western, or Wailing Wall, the empty tomb, or a grand old church. However, there is nothing intrinsically special or sacred about these locations.

Indeed, sometimes sacred sites are invented out of thin air such as when a relic is placed in a Roman Catholic church. In Chimayo, New Mexico, there is said to be healing dirt. There is a hole in a side room of the church and people gather it up and take it with them for various practices. Legend has it that the dirt never runs out but the priest of the parish has plainly said that they fill it back up (from a mound of dirt that is out back by the restrooms) whether it has miraculous healing properties is another matter.

A few years back there was some fighting in Jerusalem and some priests would not leave the Church of the Nativity. They risked their lives in order to protect a sacred site, which might seem courageous or even romantic. But keep in mind that when the services are over the church leaves the building, the building is not the church, rather, the people are. Therefore, in reality these men risked their lives for a nicely arranged pile of bricks and that’s all.

The Roman Catholic Church has made their position very clear regarding this issue at The Council of Trent in the Twenty-Fifth Session – Dec. 3-4, 1563 – On the Invocation, Veneration, and Relics of Saints, and on Sacred Images,
“…they who affirm that veneration and honor are not due to relics of the saints, or that these and other sacred monuments are uselessly honored by the faithful, and that the places dedicated to the memory of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid, are wholly to be condemned.”

It is true that God told Moses, “Pull off your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). This seems to be one particular occasion when and where God’s presence was. There is no indication that if we could somehow identify this location today it would somehow be a sacred site.

Jesus specifically spoke regarding the issue of sacred sites in His encounter with the Samaritan woman,
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:19-24).

See the point? Should we worship here or there? The point is crystal clear; geographical location is utterly irrelevant. God’s blessings are not bestowed based upon our ability to visit particular geographic locations. Rather, they are based on His grace, which is omnipresent.

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