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Vincent Donovan, a missionary in Africa, wrote of working with the Masai many years ago. He said the people were all sitting very respectfully listening to him as the priest, and he was teaching them about the Seven Sacraments of the Church. He described a sacrament as a physical encounter or event in which you experience the Transcendent or Grace or the Holy, and he could tell the men were not very satisfied when he said there were only seven such moments. One of the elders finally raised his hand and said, “I thought there would be seven thousand!”
A philosopher of religion said that if you look at the history of all religions, they almost all begin with one massive mistake. They make a clean split between the sacred and the profane. Then all the emphasis is placed on going to the sacred spaces, creating sacred time and sacred actions, and ninety-eight percent of life then remains “unsacred.” This is at the heart of the problem. This is why so many people have such a hard time encountering the holy. These are not insincere people. They’re people who were told to look only in a very few places for God.
The correct distinction is never between sacred and profane, but only between sacred and desecrated places, people, and things. It is we alone who desecrate God’s one incarnate world by our inability to see truthfully and to show reverence.
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