“When the Lord saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ God said, ‘Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” (Exodus 3: 4-5)
The place was holy ground because the Lord was present in that place. This is the same reason churches have always been considered holy places, because they are “the house of God.” Throughout history, people have entered God’s house with reverence and respect. The traditional practice of genuflecting to the tabernacle on entering a church is the equivalent of “removing your sandals” – acknowledging the greatness and holiness of God truly present in the Eucharist and expressing reverence and humility before God.
One of the major complaints of those who have been critical of the liturgical changes is the perception of “a loss of the sense of reverence” at Mass and in church. People dress more casually, enter church informally, greet others and speak with them before Mass begins.
To an extent the change in behavior reflects a change in understanding and spirituality. People come to church more conscious of their identity as members of the Body of Christ, and, therefore already being in the Lord’s presence. Gathering together, greeting one another is a genuine part of the preparation for liturgy. Liturgy is a celebration, an active and joyful act in which the whole community plays an active role, rather than passively sitting and remaining quiet.
However, I wonder whether there is something to the perception that we have lost a degree of reverence, that we lose awareness that in church we are “on holy ground” in the presence of the Lord. In talking with the people around us (and I have often experienced concelebrating priests sitting together in church before a special Mass, such as a priest’s funeral, doing the same thing), do we get so caught up in socializing with each other that we forget the presence of the Lord? By talking (before or after Mass), do we make it difficult for those who are praying? Would it be better preparation for liturgy to greet each other briefly and then spend time with the Lord in quiet reflection and prayer?
How do you “remove the sandals from your feet” because you are on holy ground?