e-book Walking on Holy Ground: The Attributes of a Dynamic Relationship with Christ

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This exclusion is the essential characteristic of the profane. Hence the profane is described as the other reality. It is a vague and common reality outside the realm of the sacred in sharp contrast to its compelling and powerful identity. In the Old Testament narratives the word profane shares some similarities with the Latin etymology.

Its most frequent use is in the verbs to defile and to pollute. It is also used to imply the opposite of holy, as ritually unclean or impure.

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However, the profane is generally translated into common, especially in connection to being apart from the holy. To profane something holy is to make it common, ordinary, in stark opposition to the uniqueness of the holy. As the following examples show:. The Gospels depict Jesus as abiding by the law, but sometimes he is also portrayed as challenging the law. Although he may appear at times to transgress the commandments, he does not condemn them.

He does, however, castigate the hypocrisy of the priests that regulate the law. Foremost, Jesus is depicted as the prototype who inaugurates a new law. His new rule supplants all other commandments: he says to love your God above anything else, but also to love your neighbor as yourself.

The emphasis of the message is not the opposition between one God and other gods, but love. Jesus transcends the dichotomy between the holy and the common, yet he does not dull the distinction between the two. In fact, he inaugurates a new kingdom; ie, Christianity.

Jesus reverses the order of worldly things. What was profane is now sacred. He consecrates the common and makes it sacred, while he denounces the sacred hierarchies of the worldly powers. His kingdom, however, is not inaugurated to overthrow the worldly system, since it is based on the power of love.

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His kingdom is not of this world either, but from a world yet to be created by faith and solidarity between the believers. It is a place for those who forsake their share of this world for a part in the other. As he explains to his disciples, only those who understand the language of the parables have access to his kingdom. And Jesus is the door to another realm of meaning: from the physical to the spiritual, and from the literal to the metaphorical.

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In essence, the parable is nothing else than an allegorical story, which is nothing more than an extended metaphor. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Jesus takes great care to point out that the key to his message will be lost by those caught up in the material aspect of the worldly existence.

In the same manner as the true meaning of the message from the miracles is lost to the marvel and spectacle of the sign. The world would soon rather forget that Jesus cures the unclean, the outcasts and the excluded which society abhors and segregates. His miracles transgress the boundaries of the sacred and transcend them. By doing so, he shatters the structure of the sacred and the hierarchy on which society is built.

There is more to the profane than one might expect, even though the sacred consolidates all the attention on itself and dismisses the profane as a non-entity, as something remote and insignificant.


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We have seen that the profane is repudiated as the common, the ordinary, the hidden; it is decried as the other. And as such it is kept apart from the sacred hierarchy. The sacred tries to keep this other reality overshadowed and hidden so as to highlight its own power and play down the reality of the profane. Even though the sacred deliberately tries to deprecate the profane, it is nonetheless a reality, a dynamic entity essential to the existence and the survival of the sacred experience.

As Jesus focuses on the profane reality of the poor, the sick, the prostitutes, the possessed, the foreigners, the Gentiles and the slaves, he points to a reality that is excluded from the Jewish religious world dominated by the priestly order. In spite of the religious authority of the priests, he elected the outcasts as the beneficiaries of his kingdom. He reveals that the other reality is the essence of his message of love which exposes the true purpose of religion. As a result, he broke the foundation of the old precepts of the religious structure and activated a new reality that transcends the old religious order.

Yet the profane has a specific function in the realm of the religious: it is an adumbrated and hidden quality that symbolizes the unacknowledged side of reality. Her role has been kept in the background so that Jesus can accomplish his mission.

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We have also seen how the segregation is characteristic of the profane; as the hidden, the other and the excluded reality. Mary, first as a mother and then as a woman, is excluded from the symbolic triad of procreation; e. Even though the Holy Spirit is the only person that does not have a gender connotation, it does have numerous feminine attributes; ie, life-giving Love and the giver of life. Nevertheless, behind it lies the mystery of an-other hidden spiritual vitality. Several years later, a landmark work on the holy was published. It was written by Rudolf Otto.


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  5. It is in this work that he first introduced the expression wholly other. Otto developed the concept because he perceived a need to expand the inventory of expressions to better describe the mysterium aspect of the holy. As we will see, this concept is not only useful but indispensable.

    It helps to fully understand the whole religious experience. It becomes essential to show the whole interrelation and the transcendental link between the sacred and the profane into the wholly other. Otto did not develop his idea of the wholly other as a logical result of the dynamics between the sacred and the profane. He defined the wholly other as what stands beyond the realm of the intelligible. The sphere where the divine manifests itself, namely, the unfathomable and the ineffable. First, the unfathomable suggests that one is unable to understand and express his feelings of awe in the face of the holy.

    Second, the ineffable implies that words are inadequate to explain such an experience. Better still, no known language is able to fully disclose the mysterium. Unlike Otto, we are not so much concerned with the feeling as with the expressions of the holy as related by the narratives. The Holy Bible is full of accounts of such mysterious experiences.

    Consequently, it is possible to explore the symbolic nature of that experience through the account. In other words, the text is the data that allows us to analyze the holy in its systematic dynamic representation. Etymologically, the adverb wholly has two meanings. The first, an older sense derived from whole , means in its entirety, in full, the sum total, all of it: hence, inclusively. The second sense is implied by the word entirely, as to suggest the exclusion of others, solely: hence, exclusively.


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    The terminology may appear ambiguous, and even contradictory at the outset, but it will become hopefully clearer as we go along. And, as we will see, it is rather insightful. The equivocalness of wholly fits exactly into the essence of the two-ness or twofold-ness of the sacred and the profane. Adding the word other to wholly we further expand the scope of its meaning.

    Only when the sacred opens up to and includes the profane does it ascend to the wholly other.

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    In Exodus, the words of Yahweh preempt the sign of the burning bush as the source of the holy. Whereas the profane reality and space are excluded from the holy, God separates the Holy ground from the profane, from the common. Yet when he finally does, Moses become one with Yahweh, his commandments and his people. Yahweh is no longer an outside reality but One presence with Moses. Again, God reveals his beloved Son to the world through his spoken Word. The Word of God reveals that God is with us and that Jesus Christ, as his Son, is himself God and as such he shares a place at the center.

    Jesus Christ as the Son of God is himself holy, but as the son of Mary he partakes in the profane reality of the human condition. This twofold unity transcends the exclusive holiness of God and reaches beyond the boundaries of his divine essence through his human nature and into the wholly other.

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    Jesus Christ, as the wholly other, transcends the exclusivity of the holy into the inclusively whole spiritual reality: Divine and human. It is a totality, one single reality. It is expressed by the commandment of love thy neighbor like yourself. Hence, the profane reality becomes as important as the sacred in the spiritual experience. Only then can the dynamic interrelation between the sacred and the profane become alive in the wholly other and transcend the two distinct entities into one whole spiritual reality of being.

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    Christ, as God, is the mysterious holy center from which everything originates and everything flows. As God he is the center of power, as man, Jesus is the door to that power, the hope of the outsider. The Gospels dispel the notion that the profane reality of the impure and unclean should be excluded. There is a stone quarry with a skull-like impression just outside the garden and a tomb like one in Jesus' day.