The Sanctuary: a special space for prayer (1 Samuel 2,22-end; James 2,1-13) /Tuesday after Trintiy Sunday Book of Commom Prayer lectionary/
The old Eli hears of the corruption of his sons at the Sanctuary and says: ‘Why do ye such tings? I hear of our evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress.’
The ‘Sanctuary’ needs to be cherished. It is the moral power-house of the community. It is a place where God speaks to individuals and the community. In terms of parish life, it should be visited as a special space of Revelation. Here God reveals his ways, things which cannot be heard with such clarity in other places.
This special nature of the Sanctuary, of which nature our chapels share, is described in the Book of Numbers. Moses enters the Tabernacle to speak with God. There, the voice emanates between the two Cherubim decorating the Ark. Here, God as it were, ‘speaks to himself’ and Moses listens to it! This is the nature of God’s voice. The voice which spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai was loud and clear. But in the Tabernacle, when God’s voice reached the entrance, it stopped and did not proceed outside the Tent.
This is the nature of our Churches and chapels today as special places of revelation. We need to enter. Our parishioners need to make this pilgrimage, the effort to listen to God’s voice, so vital for their life. Our truer self cannot be ‘revealed’ elsewhere with such clarity.
Apostle James’ letter gives an example of how it is in the ‘assembly’ (‘Tabernacle’, ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Church’, ‘Chapel’) that God reveals a vital insight. Namely, the correct discernment is to recognise the dignity of the poor, and not side-lining them among the rich. ‘Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor.’
We should appreciate more the Eucharistic, special personal presence of our Lord in our churches. The ethos of ‘visiting God’s voice’ for the sake of our truer self should be strengthened. The ‘praying person’ or the ‘discerning person’ is a gift arising from the Sacred Space, specially dedicated to prayer. Our first reading describes this emerging new person in us. ‘And I will raise me up a faithful priest [‘discerner’], that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.’
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..