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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Holiness that interrupts Time and Space - what is essential

Those who believe that religion is non-essential can live only half-lived lives. Their existence is limited to a reduced sense of place and time. They live with a sense of linear progress, but this is always toward an unknown nexus. Blind to the truth about themselves, they are privy to a host of self-contradictions each a fall into deeper alienation not only from the rest of humanity, but even from one's very self.



Those who approach religion as non-essential worship the works of their hands because their sense of space or time does not allow for anything else than what they manipulate, produce or consume. Man becomes what he worships - and if he does not worship what is holy, he becomes profane - and while the holy also know the profane, the profane cannot see the holy. And so what is truly religious, truly essential, is written off as "non-essential" while what is secondary to our existence - those things under our control - becomes absolute, the essential value for which all else must be sacrificed.


This is why the are two different ways of living in time and space today. Scholars of comparative religion tells us that those who settle for a merely secular and profane existence possess a homogenous sense of time. We can agree with this insight even if the non-religious man cannot maintain the purity of this way of existing without falling into self-contradiction. He endures duration enslaved to productivity and consumption of goods, not free to rise above merely banal survival, even as he is haunted that life must be something more. Whether through their producing or consuming, the measurable and quantifiable establishes the homogeneity of daily existence and the tedious sameness of it exhausts the human spirit and frustrates its most noble desires.


When the only reference point for progress is the producible and consumable, that is to say the quantifiably, measurably and predictably useful, life is entrapped in a two dimensional plane, a plane of duration and space that is merely material.


There is another sense of place and temporality that is not homogenous. Scholars speak of the religious person as living in a world of non homogenous time - where profane banality is interrupted by the sacred's inexhaustible treasures. While some might try to manipulate what is holy in an effort to get results, one's own existences is broken against Divinity's immutable otherness until one's blasphemy repents in adoration or fades into despair. The religious man is someone who suffers what is most true about himself and the world, and chooses not to despair.


The religious man realizes that to step into a holy place is to step out of the day to day routine. In those places that are sacred, one ascends a hidden mountain toward which all temporality flows and one descends into the deepest center out of which the space and duration needed by living things springs. As anyone who has ever fed from the Eucharistic feast and drank the mystic wine flowing from the Cross well knows, to consume the sacred is to be consumed by it -- and only those who dare to be immersed in these realities ever rise to the fullness of life that humanity was meant to know.

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