Creating our own personal space is a pleasure in life that many of us like to indulge in for hours on end. Be it setting up a water feature in our backyard, repainting our wall with that special colour choice or building a tree house in the backyard, the act of making and defining such space becomes a treasured expression of our individuality. Somehow, the place becomes a symbolic space of our feelings, emotion, thoughts, wonderment, fear and joy. In other words, it is a sphere which humanises a space, writes Erwin Cabucos.
No wonder some of us have taken the pleasure, as well, of creating a personal sacred space. It is a place which shows our longing to connect with our God and the transcendental world. It is a space which is filled with visual, sometimes, audio, cues and representation that express our innermost thoughts and prayers. What make sacred space distinct as such are the elements that pertain to God and holiness.
The use of a table with cloth at a particular spot in our house creates a dimensional effect which practically and metaphorically gives such sense of space. Depending on the size of the room or the importance we bestow upon the existence of such space, the size of the table may vary. And of course, the bigger the table gives the more area on which we can put items.
On another level, the more space we create on the surface, the more relaxing effect it achieves. De-cluttering is perhaps the word I could use. For the minimalist, a less busy sacred space is more favoured, but for the eccentric, the more items included, the more beautiful it becomes. Yet again, it all depends on the individual.
Then come the items: the crucifix, the bible, the icons, the miniature water feature, butterflies, candles, flower vase, saints statues, prayer stones, rosary beads, scapular, biblical symbols, gifts from special and memorable people, photographs of loved ones, the list goes on.
Indeed, endless choices of items could be displayed, including aquarium, objects that represent our goals and ambition, ashes of loved ones, CD players, iPod speakers for audio sound effects, or the iPad which allows for viewing of religious YouTube sites. Indeed, on it, we can include anything that we think significant for our prayer experience and personal choice.
Whatever items or elements we include in our sacred space will be up to the uniquely individual that we are. However, there are a few things that we may be guided of.
Risk and safety should be a major consideration. The choice of candle holders and their proximity of the fire and combustible materials should be sensible and responsible. Only secure electrical cords should be used and highly breakable materials should be away from precarious positions. Matches and lighters should be kept away from children.
Colour scheme and object alignment should at least show some aesthetic. And most of the time, it is the user or the family members are the best critique of such creation. Sometimes kids’ spontaneity and creativity do wonders in how things are composed on our altar. Most of the time, however, parents’ careful provision and positioning of sizes, texture, order and overall arrangement of the objects in the space produce beautiful result which eventually adds to the real excitement of using the space.
The sacred space is a beautiful place to gather for prayer, either for individual purpose or for family rituals. To offer an invitation to family members to gather around the sacred space for a few minutes to light up a candle for a sick member of a family, to thank God for an auspicious and significant occasion, to send off someone for an important journey in life… to simply close one’s eyes and visually and dimensionally stimulated by a sacred space is indeed a significant experience. It does create prayer becomes more prayerful.
And for kids who will find it exciting to construct and to arrange, the act of making a sacred space is in itself a prayerful experience. Just be careful of them lighting the candle by themselves, though!
Erwin Cabucos is a migrant from the Philippines, an ethnic radio broadcaster and a teacher of Senior English and Religion at Carmel College, Brisbane.