VIEWSnTHE SEARCH FOR THE SACRED by Thomas MolnarnReligion is inseparable from the sacred, the channelnthrough which the divine transcendent communicatesnwith man, according to man’s sensate nature. Any object,nnatural or man-made—a Gothic cathedral or the lapisnnegra excavated on the Roman forum—may assume thencharacter of sacredness. Through it, the divine communicationnbecomes incarnated, and, in the intellectual-rationalnorder, verities of the faith are better approached andn•understood. After the material devastations of the firstnreligious wars, in the second quarter of the 16th century,nthe Council of Trent saw fit to rehabilitate the sacred imagesnand symbols, in liturgy and in churches, precisely withnthese arguments: The human comprehension of abstractn(dogmatic and doctrinal) truths must be aided through annappeal to the senses in shapes, colors, music, architecture,nstone, wood, glass, and precious metals and stones.nThrough the sacred and the beauty and awe it conveys, thenspiritual in man is mobilized; he is enveloped in a supernaturalnreality in contrast with his daily routine and concretenpreoccupations. The sacred makes possible the recognitionnof man’s dual nature, his simultaneous existence in thenprofane and the sacred, the rational and the mystical, innGod’s presence and in the daily contact with the surroundingnworld of nature and humanity.nAs Mircea Eliade notes, any block of stone, among thenmany other ordinary blocks of stone, may be sacred,nendowed with powers and influences and emanationsnincreasingly distinguishing it, transfiguring it. It is, ofncourse, no “ordinary” stone; it has been selected for itsnshape, the place it occupies, the mysterious events thatnoccurred around it; in other words, a succession of eventsnhas lifted it above the customary and penetrated thenconsciousness of those participating in those events. Or thenblock of stone we are talking about may be one shapednaccording to cultic specifications (like Hinduist altar-stones)nwhich allow it to serve divine purposes and become anrevered more-than-object. We see from this example that ansacred “object” must be integrated into a sacred network, annensemble of which it becomes a part, just as religious mannis not an individual alone inventing his own worship, but anmember of a community. Accordingly, the sacred manifestsnitself in a location, a time, through gestures and rituals,nvestments and buildings, and of course sacraments, thenprecise, unalterable symbols through which the divinenreality is communicated.nWe find these sacred elements built into every religion,nThomas Molnar is a visiting professor of religious studiesnat Yale University.nalthough the shapes, sizes, relationships, lights, and shadowsnare differentiy arranged and proportioned in each,nfollowing the doctrinal requirements and the dictation ofnthe faith. Yet, each sacred object and ritual inspires awenbecause of a tradition-governed location, a long and consecratedntime, the repetition of immemorial motions, thenuniqueness of symbols. Let us consider a few examples ofnsacred objects and symbols. The Gothic stained glassnwindow (whose colors cannot be imitated, that art havingnbeen lost) is predominantly blue, like heaven, while thenyellows, the reds, the greens signify Christ’s blood, or thencolor of precious stones. The cathedral itself is elongated,nsuggesting Christ’s body on the cross, his heart where thenaltar is, his arms forming the transept. The colonnadenrunning from the main entrance towards the altar is anninvitation in stone for the worshiper to come forward, whilenat the same time it is a pilgrimage of the homo viator, thenmedieval term for man traveling through this earthlynexistence.nim^^te’n.”ili^ammmn’3!^4iES9BnB^BIinnWWWlwfc-n•’^^.^WKB^Mnt^SH^^^^^^HK;n’ ^^^^^^^^^^BILn’^^I^^^^HHn• ‘ ^ ^ ^n^rn’J*/nnn*n”^y^^S^BBSB^B^n”’^^w^^^^KBK^^^n•”’•Q^^^^^Hi^^^KrnDECEMBER 1986 / 11n