Sacred Spaces

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Northwest Tucson, a facility founded by Catholics—at least in modern times. Before the Catholics came, the Hohokam people dwelt and prayed here.

You can see the evidence in the rugged mound of rocks beside a nearby wash. Etched into the stones are pictures of animals and people and even astronomical representations. It is thought that before a hunt, the symbol makers would carve these images and pray for a successful hunt.

It is a sacred place.

It reminded me of another sacred place I’ve visited: Old Ship Church in Hingham, Massachusetts. Built in 1681, it was founded as a Puritan meeting house. Currently it is a Unitarian Universalist congregation. On the rear walls are plaques commemorating the ministers who served there, stretching back in time and history. In 1930, the original box pews were discovered and restored, replacing more ornate standard pews installed during Victorian times.

Worshiping at Old Ship, I could feel there was something different about this place. It’s hard to describe, but I had the sense that this was holy ground.

There are other places that must be holy ground. Mountains seem to be a place where it’s easier to connect to God. You probably know that Mount Sinai was where Moses received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh. But the Tohono O’odham, descendants of the Hohokam, know Baboquivari Peak is sacred. It is a place of spiritual power.

 I think Jerusalem must be holy ground. Why else would three major religions contest its ownership so bitterly?

And then there are stone circles, like Stonehenge. While most populous in the British Isles, there are others in other parts of the world. What would cause people to build these constructions, often requiring monumental tasks like transporting the stones hundreds of miles, other than something special about the places they were built?

I’m not sure what makes a place sacred. I can only imagine that it’s a place where the barrier between the physical and spiritual is thinner than in most of the world. I do believe in the spiritual. I also believe in science. Science is easier to prove. It has repeatable results. But it doesn’t explain all of existence. There is something else, something mystical, something sacred to which humans have been trying to connect throughout history. So they make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and gather at Stonehenge on the equinox, making that connection in sacred spaces.

Photos all taken by me at Picture Rocks.

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