Sacred Spaces

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come. —Chinese Proverb

In the hilarious and bittersweet novel Little Altars All Around, Louisiana native Rebecca Wells concludes by indulging the main character in spiritual reverie. Sidalie suddenly recognizes the power of many small and seemingly unimportant

"sacred spaces" at both key and mundane moments in her life.

When reading this book, I was reminded of a description of early childhood by my sister-in-law, whose mother is Korean and father Chicano. In classic Mexican fashion, one kitchen corner sheltered a small altar dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Another shelf held candles and incense for the Buddhist custom of honoring ancestors.

While one happy task of Christians is to prepare the way of the Lord, all too often this is interpreted solely as work in the world. John the Baptist exhorted and preached, but he also paused on the banks of the Jordan and baptized Jesus. Jesus and his cousin regularly retreated to the desert for purification and renewal. At the same time we heed the call to labor in the field, we should cultivate also the vineyard of our souls.

This task of pruning and preparing our hearts is made more concrete by assembling in our homes a sign of Christ’s "in dwelling." Make an altar or prayer table in a quiet but centrally located spot. Young children appreciate a table with a Bible, candles, and seasonal materials displayed at their level. A low table also invites taller family members to kneel. All appreciate a small pillow for use during extended prayer and meditation.

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Sojourners Magazine April 1994
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