Holy Ground

Starts:  • 
Ends:  • 

“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?


  1. Dolores says

    Yes. This is a special place where we do encounter God. I appreciate your comment. Further, I do think of “everywhere” as being Holy Ground. How can it not be? Just to walk in one’s yard and greet the neighbors, we are walking on holy ground for “the Lord is with us and where He is – is holy.” (Prior to Vatican II people tended to think of “church” as the only place to find God.) When we socialize before (and after) Mass it is with our friends we have most likely not seen for a week and perhaps will not see again until next Sunday…to follow Jesus’ commandment to “Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.” Hence, we warmly greet and “catch up” (as the concelebrating priests do as well). Then when the announcements ensue, the congregation quiets and prepares for further prayer. Our sandals have been removed.

  2. says

    I found Fr. Tony’s reflection on “Holy Ground” very relevant to our parish as a whole. If the perception of the need for conversation is the fact that parishioners are only seeing each other on a weekly basis, I wonder why we don’t consider the need for weekly time to be quiet and prayerful before mass in the presence of God.
    We speak of being a Eucharistic people, but is receiving eucharist enough? I believe that the real challenge for us is to know the presence of Jesus in the moments when we feel surrounded by the grace of God in quiet reflection.
    Our society has lost a sense of the sacred for many things. Everything can be reduced to humor or disrespect. It seems to me that a healthy alternative is to start with ourselves in our places of worship. Friendship with others is definitely a value for us, and rightly so. A communal friendship with a focus on the gift of the eucharist will lead us, I believe, to a deeper sense of communion with each other.

  3. Gene Witts says

    It was extreme interest to me to read Father Tony’s blog in reference to “holy ground.” Yes, we know that God is with us where ever we go but but yet, when we enter God’s church, we know we are in God’s house and as such should display some reverence to Jesus who resides in the tabernacle. As we prepare for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, there are those who like to prepare in silent prayer and reflection for this greatest of all mysteries. Yet, the conversations that abound in the church makes this almost impossible. If we must socialize, can’t we confine this to the coffee hours that follow? Isn’t that the purpose of having a coffee hour.