St. James Cathedral of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem is one of the oldest Christian churches in Jerusalem. I had been there three times, twice with permission from Bishop Sevon to photograph.
St. James is not open to tourists during the day. The Church is open only for masses; morning, afternoon, special occasion: it is consecrated.
After morning mass, Bishop Sevon held my hand and griped my arm to lead me toward and in front of the St. James alter, giving me a lesson on consecration through the story of James.
He told me about consecration in a round about way using the Virgin Mary as a vehicle to explain why James was not the blood brother of Jesus the Messiah, but only a “brother” in terms of association, like in a fraternity, or an order, or a nationality, as the Jews welcome one another in such a way once it is determined you are Jewish upon meeting – like Christians too – brotherhood in the embodiment, but not by direct generational blood ancestry.
Bishop Sevon made the analogy thus: one would not take a Holy Chalice and fill it with common drink, or a plate that was consecrated and use it for every day common meals, so too with Mary, the vessel that held the divine through whom He entered this world.
Here is the dictionary definition: (verb)
1. to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building.
2. to make (something) an object of honor or veneration; hallow: a custom consecrated by time.
3. to devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to science.
4. to admit or ordain to a sacred office, esp. to the episcopate.
5. to change (bread and wine) into the Eucharist.
St. James is a consecrated space. The place itself is used for holy purpose and hence closed to tourists (though people are allowed in during mass to observe, though the Cathedral closes promptly with 10 minutes of mass ending).
As I observed three masses I noticed the rich and specialized singing, prayer, ritual that enacted and prepared the Holy Eucharist, the attention given everything showed intention of consecration and veneration. Respect to these things is taken serious. They are taken serious not because they are things, but because what these things represent in the Holy.
Much as icons serve as doorways through which one enters divine space by contemplation or simply through substitution, so too are these actions, this place, the (more…)