The Illusion of the Secular

by Mark Votava


I remember when I first heard the word secular, I really had no idea what that word meant.  It was confusing to me.  Then I soon found out that it meant that life is divided.  I thought to myself, “How could life be divided if God created me to experience all of life as sacred?”

  • Having eyes to see

There is no sacred/secular divide when the body of Christ is living, abiding and trusting in the divine presence within them and around them in the place they inhabit together.  The mystical imagination shows us that Christ is a part of everything in our neighborhood in a mysterious way.  We have to have the eyes to see it.

  • The secular illusion

The secular does not exist.  We cannot live as if there is a secular.  The secular disappears in our locality.  The secular is an illusion.

  • The divine ecology in the parish

There is a whole divine ecology that displays itself to us locally all of the time.  The body of Christ lives within this divine ecology in the parish.  God has placed all things within our locality as the body of Christ.  Nothing escapes this manifestation.

  • The sacredness of neighborhood

The neighborhood is sacred even when we have trouble seeing it.  The neighborhood is filled with God’s goodness and beauty.  The neighborhood is the sacred space where we become the body of Christ together in everyday life.

  • Becoming fed up with the sacred/secular divide

God is destroying the illusion of the sacred/secular divide in us every day as we live out the gospel.  There is no more tolerance for this division.  We have to become fed up with it and seek a better way in the parish or we will become blinded by the illusion of the secular.

  • The ongoing reality of the incarnation

The incarnation of Christ was not a one time thing in history, but is an ongoing reality in our world through the parish.  The incarnation and a theology of place are linked together in mysterious ways.  Our salvation is experienced when the incarnation and a theology of place touch each other in our souls as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  • God is revealed through the material

Norvene Vest writes, “Incarnation as a theological principle means not just that God once took actual, temporal, material form, but that God can be found everywhere, all the time, within everything.  God is not contained within but revealed through the material. Outward form is not unimportant, for the material form has been created by God for a specific purpose.  We are invited to look with awe at each person and thing, for in some mysterious way, Christ shines forth from each.  The world in which we live is a medium for the divine revelation.  There is a continuous and creative interpretation of the spiritual and the material in all of created reality.”

How have you worked through the sacred/secular divide in your life?