The Sanctuary

September 1, 2016

Turmoil surrounds us. Chaos is ever present. Terrorist attacks, violence in our cities, political anarchy, threats of wars, and so much more.

And that is not to mention the inner turmoil we experience—the many stresses of our daily lives, relationships which are frequently broken, and emotional wounds.

No wonder many are plagued by anxiety. It easy to feel at times that it is all just too much. The desire to flee to a quieter, safer place, a place of peace and calm can be strong.

I too feel the anxieties of our day. Yet there is one place where I feel truly at peace: Holy Mass.

In the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, surrounded by cherubim and seraphim and the whole company of heaven, I am at peace.

The eternal sacrifice of praise ascends to heaven. Incense rises with the prayers it signifies. Our great High Priest offers and is offered. Creatures return to their Creator the echo of his glory.

Here all is right. Here nothing is lacking. Here all is as it should be.

In the silence of adoration, in the presence of the Creator of creation, the mad rush of a violent and broken world fades away. My soul, so often tossed to and fro by anxious restlessness, finds a harbor of calm.

We call this place of worship a sanctuary. And so it is. A place of sanctity and safety.  The tabernacle, the dwelling place of the Most High. It is a place cut-off, separate from the ordinary. Is this not what holiness means? Terribilis est locus iste: hic domus Dei est et porta caeli.

And we need such a place in which to encounter the living God. Desiring it is not selfish. We cannot give what we do not have. Until we ourselves have been purified and healed, like the prophet Isaiah, by the burning Eucharistic coals, we cannot hope to bind the wounds of another.

When you are anxious, when you are afraid, when you are broken, flee to the holy place. Run to the sanctuary. Be healed by the beauty of holiness. For in awe-struck adoration, we find our true selves. In blessing God, in thanking him, we are made whole.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. James Somes says

    The Sanctuary is not the place in a church where the people sit, that is called the Nave. Where you enter the church (traditionally is at the rear of the Nave) and where the baptismal font should be is called the Narthex.

    The Sanctuary is the immediate place around the altar. This is usually behind a rood screen (sadly mostly gone now), or an altar rail. At the very least it is on a raised dias. In Eastern Churches it is behind the Iconostasis.

    • Br Phil says

      The meaning was extended to places of holiness or safety. A religious sanctuary may be a sacred place (such as a church, temple, synagogue or mosque), however the Church’s definition is a consecrated area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.

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