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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

To Worship the Living God in Time and Space

We are made to worship the Living God. Because we are creatures who live in time and space, this means we need physical time and space for this worship—not as an extra benefit of life, but to address what is most essential, what is truly human. We need sacred festivals and temples, Sundays and Churches—or all that is most wonderful about life is diminished.

Humanity is ordered, not to what is outside the temple, the profane, the world, but to what is within, the sacred space set apart for God and the things of God, the holy place around which the world turns. By this reference point, love, family and friends take their proper place and the work-a-day world is ordered to it—rather than the other way around. This holy mountain is hidden, above our sight, and we need divine help to see what only the heavens know. Yet, the way has been laid open by the Word became flesh. He has opened a path so that we find and arise above ourselves.

The Risen Lord leads us into the deepest places of human intimacy and tenderness to give a strength and fruitfulness that this tired old world has never seen before - but longs for all the same. This secret garden cannot be grasped by the keenest intellect. Yet, the most humble of prayers unlocks its gate and enters. Here, in this place of reverence, worship and adoration, we learn to rest, to be who we are meant to be, to do what alone can satisfy our hearts: the praise of the glory of God.

Holiness is the reference point of life, our burning bush, our orientation to peace. With the reporting of each new calamity, strife and disaster that strikes our communities, our news outlets are confirming what we most know in our hearts: humanity is lost, enslaved to destructive impulses, imprisoned in enmity. Our own industry and accomplishments are ineffective in countering this tendency.

What we make is not much because every self-determined end is too small, another indulgence of our inflated ego. The fantasy of secular existence—a life in this world without reference to another - has no orientation to what most matters in life. Without an orientation point, we are lost in ourselves, lacking direction to truly live. When even religion is reduced to our own spiritual industry, no matter how therapeutic, it also falls short of taking us into the truly holy. Lost we cannot find rest. Far from peace, humanity needs a reference point if it is to find its way. Indeed, it is in God that we live and move and have our being.

We need a savior. We have lost our sense of the sacred not because it is remote. Rather, in our lack of reverence and wonder, we are unaware of how close it is. The ticktocks of the office clock deafen us to angels songs because the noise materially measuring moments rings too loud in our ears. Life is more than a succession of neatly divided periods of duration that we fill with activity or waste on silliness. If we go on living one moment as if it were just like the last, enter one space with the same self-occupied desire as we had in the one we left, we will never find our place, the home where we belong. When life is driven by weight and measure, a cubicle, a punchcard, we will eventually either cave into despair or lash-out in rage. Unless Someone from the outside offers a path of escape, we live imprisoned in the measurable limits of our own selfishness.

We live in an age converted to medical science for salvation. The prevailing social narrative "follow the science" supposes, if we will just work together to contain this disease, isolating ourselves as if patients in a giant hospital, we will be okay - for indeed we are all in this together, we were told. As ever new treatments are arbitrarily required, not for the science but for sheer conformity, we should question the role of technology. Does it open human possibilities or render impossible being human? What deception lulls us to accept that virtual meeting rooms and digital liturgies suffice for our spiritual needs—as if prayer were some narcissistic indulgence of pious sentiment for therapeutic needs!

Our toys fail to direct our existence beyond ourselves because these instruments are simply self-extensions, limited by the measurable, what our natural powers can grasp. We need liberation from our gadgets, our mediocre ambitions, the narratives that appeal to our imaginations. We need a greater freedom, freedom from self, if we are to enter into a meaningful life.

Truth is the pathway to this freedom and it leads to bodily action in space and time. Truth is sacramental. Human life, as is the case for time itself, has come from and leads to what is immeasurable and beyond the limits of created intelligence. If secularism has entrapped our hearts, God Himself will set us free from the hunter's snare.

The Word of the Father reveals that no moment of our lives is without reference to the first moment when God ushers us into existence and the last moment which opens into eternity. All the time and space of our lives, in other words, are filled with supernatural, divine meaning. Part of God's creation, these realities witness to a love that has summoned them into existence for us and when ordered for his glory, this wondrous part of his creation points us to an existence beyond themselves.

Life is not a monotony of moments in which each moment is the same as the last. Each moment is unique. It comes from and goes to God. The world in which we move is not a monotony of places, each one interchangeable or calculated only in terms of its usefulness as a means to an end. Every place is characterized by its relation to the sacred. For humanity is meant to participate in the holiness of God Himself in each moment, and in every place. Offering praise to God where we are right now in this moment sanctifies the dimensions and duration of our lives. It is to realize our purpose in the cosmos—to reveal the glory of God.

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