Day 4 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.
“Do you want to do the honors?” asked my realtor, Kelly, offering me the keys. We were standing at the front door of the cottage on closing day, about to do the final walk-through.
I nodded and then reached into my bag. “This might seem a bit odd,” I began hesitantly, “but the first thing going into the house is my icon of Jesus.”
“That’s not odd at all, Susan.” She smiled, held my bag as Jesus and I went in to the house together. For the next few weeks, the icon remained on a shelf in the main room, reminding me that Jesus was with me in the midst of the chaos of the move.
The icon of Jesus was the first of 8 important symbols I brought into my new home (I’ll share more in future posts), each representing something that I wanted to be welcomed into the life at the Cottage.
As a child, my memories of visiting the churches of Germany–small or large–are ones of color and warmth, the faces of bible people and saint people seemed to welcome me into their stories; the flowers on the altars; the hidden beauties of side chapels, crypts, and chapel gardens; the smell of old stone, old wood, wax, and incense; candles, candles, and more candles; and the deep, resonant silence, where I could hear God’s whisper. It is not surprising that crafting homey versions of these spaces in the Cottage is important. Creating sacred spaces remind me what atmosphere I want to cultivate–a place of prayer, joy, beauty, welcome, delight.
In Orthodox homes, the sacred space is called the icon corner, or even more lovely in Russian, beautiful corner, and is located in the main room.
If creating a space for prayer and reflection is something that draws you, start with three objects that capture your desire for God and arrange them on a table in the kitchen, counter, end table, or as a dining table center piece. The psalmist in psalm 84 writes, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty.” What speaks to you of God’s beauty? Flowers? Candles? A child’s drawing? A letter from a loved one? The bible? Nature? It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to draw your eyes and invite you into the Love it represents.
For many years, I’ve had a lectio table, (lectio means “read,” from lectio divina), a physical representation of my current prayer. I’ve collected found objects over the past 30 years and create a little tableau of prayer for a particular intention, person, or thanksgiving. This kind of sacred space can be a tactile and wordless option for when spoken prayer is too difficult.
A lectio table is also a wonderful way to include little ones–wordy prayer may be beyond their understanding, but having them bring an object to the lectio table helps them find beauty and offer prayer in their own way.
Sacred spaces that are beautiful and capture the eye as well as the heart remind me that I am part of a wider, larger, more magnificent multi-dimensional creation than what my senses experience. We are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses; the Kingdom of God is at hand, even now, even when we don’t feel it. The little homey Kingdom places of candles, icons, and images remind me to look beyond momentary trials or my limited through-a-glass-darkly vision to the reality of God’s presence.