Sacred means revered due to sanctity and is generally the state of
being perceived by religious individuals as associated with divinity
and considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring
awe or reverence among believers.
Objects are often considered sacred if used for spiritual purposes,
such as the worship or service of gods. The property is often ascribed
to objects (a "sacred artifact" that is venerated and blessed), or
places ("sacred ground").
2 Distinguished from "Holy"
3 Academic views
3.2 History of religions
4 Religious views
5 See also
8 External links
The word "sacred" descends from the
Latin wikt:sacer, that is
consecrated, or dedicated to the gods or anything in their power,
and to sacerdos and sanctum, set apart.
Distinguished from "Holy"
Main article: Hallow
Although there are similarities between the terms "sacred" and "holy"
and they are sometimes used interchangeably, there are subtle
differences. "Holiness" is generally the term used in relation to
persons and relationship, while "sacredness" is used in relation to
objects, places, or happenings. Thus a saint may be considered as
holy, but he is not viewed as sacred. However, there are things that
are both holy and sacred such as the holy bible.
The English word "holy" dates back to at least the 11th century with
Old English word hālig, an adjective derived from hāl meaning
"whole" and used to mean "uninjured, sound, healthy, entire,
complete". The Scottish hale ("health, happiness and wholeness") is
the most complete modern form of this
Old English root. The word
"holy" in its modern form appears in
Wycliffe's Bible of 1382. In
non-specialist contexts, the term "holy" is used in a more general
way, to refer to someone or something that is associated with a divine
power, such as water used for baptism.
While both words denote something or someone set apart to the worship
God and therefore worthy of respect and in some cases veneration,
"holy" (the stronger word) implies an inherent or essential
character. Holiness originates in
God and is communicated to
things, places, times, and persons engaged in His Service. Thus
Aquinas Thomas defines "holiness" as that virtue by which a man's mind
applies itself and all its acts to God; he ranks it among the infused
moral virtues, and identifies it with the virtue of religion, but with
this difference that, whereas religion is the virtue whereby one
God due service in the things which pertain to the Divine
service, holiness is the virtue by which one makes all one's acts
subservient to God. Thus holiness or sanctity is the outcome of
sanctification, that Divine act by which
God freely justifies a
person, and by which He has claimed them for His own.
See also: Hierotopy
Hierology (Greek ιερος, hieros, "sacred" or "holy", + -logy) is
the study of sacred literature or lore.
History of religions
Main article: History of religions
Mircea Eliade outlines that religion should not be interpreted only as
'belief in deities', but as 'experience of the sacred'. He analyses
the dialectic of the sacred. The sacred is presented in relation to
the profane. The relation between the sacred and the profane is not
of opposition, but of complementarity, as the profane is viewed as a
Main article: Sacred–profane dichotomy
Émile Durkheim considered the dichotomy between
the sacred and the profane to be the central characteristic of
religion: "religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices
relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and
forbidden." In Durkheim's theory, the sacred represented the
interests of the group, especially unity, which were embodied in
sacred group symbols, or totems. The profane, on the other hand,
involved mundane individual concerns. Durkheim explicitly stated that
the dichotomy sacred/profane was not equivalent to good/evil. The
sacred could be good or evil, and the profane could be either as
Theravada Buddhism one finds the designation of 'noble person' or
ariyapuggala (Pali). The Buddha described four grades of such person
depending on their level of purity. This purity is measured by which
of the ten fetters (samyojana) and klesha have been purified and
integrated from the mindstream. These persons are called (in order of
increasing sanctity) Sotāpanna, Sakadagami,
Anāgāmi and Arahant.
See also: Sanctum sanctorum
Vatican Persian Cock – A 1919 print of a fabric square of a Persian
cock or a Persian bird design belonging to the Vatican (Holy See) in
Rome dating to 600 CE. Notice the halo denoting the status of being
holy or sacred.
Catholicism has inherited much of the Jewish vision of the world in
terms of holiness, with certain behaviour appropriate to certain
places and times. The calendar gives shape to Catholic practice, which
tends to focus on the Eucharist, in which the
Real Presence of Christ
is manifested. Holy days, celebrating events of the life of
the lives of Catholic saints officially recognized as holy, are
celebrated throughout the year.
Many features of the Jewish temple (although now seen as having
Christian significance) are imitated in churches, such as the altar,
bread, lamp, incense, font, etc., to emphasise the extreme holiness of
the Eucharistic elements, which are reserved in a tabernacle. In
extension of this focus on the Sacrament as holy, many objects in
Catholicism are also considered holy. They are called sacramentals and
are usually blessed by a priest. Such items include rosaries,
crucifixes, medals, and statues and icons of Jesus, angels and saints
(e.g. Virgin Mary). While Catholics believe that holy places and
objects (i.e., objects dedicated to
God for sacred use) should be
respected and not put to profane use, the
Catholic Church condemns
worshiping the object itself, as any worship given to something other
God is considered idolatry.
People in a state of sanctifying grace are also considered holy in
Catholicism. A central notion of Catholicism as articulated in
contemporary theology is the "[personal] call to holiness," considered
to be a vocation shared by every Christian believer. Profound personal
holiness has traditionally also been seen as a focus for the kind of
contagious holiness primarily associated with the Sacrament. So the
communion of saints in Catholicism is not only the acclamation of
their piety or morality, but also reverence for the tangible holiness
that flows from their proximity to the divine. Hence the places where
saints lived, died, performed miracles, or received visions frequently
become sites of pilgrimage, and notable objects surviving a saint
(including the body or parts of it) are considered relics. The
holiness of such places or objects, resulting from contact with a
deeply holy person, is often connected with the miraculous long after
the death of the saint.
Latin for "holy") is the name of an important hymn of
Christian liturgy. The
Trisagion ('Thrice Holy') is a standard hymn of
the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Churches.
Part of a series on the
Attributes of God
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Protestant Reformation stood in opposition to the beliefs of
tangible holiness in the
Catholic Church and rejected most of its
teachings regarding devotional practice, language and imagery. The
early Protestant Reformers, who were often scholars of Ancient Greek
and also borrowed from Jewish scholarship, recognized that holiness is
an attribute of God, and holiness is always part of the presence of
God. Yet they also recognized that "practical holiness" was the
evidence of the presence of
God in the converted believer. Martin
Luther viewed God's grace (and therefore God's holiness), as an
invasion of the life. Actions that demonstrated holiness would spring
up, not premeditated, as believers focused more and more on their
relationship with Christ. This was the life of faith, according to
Luther; a life in which one recognizes that the sin inherent in human
nature never departs, yet grace invades each human spirit and draws
each person after Christ.
Calvin, on the other hand, formulated a practical system of holiness
that even tied in with culture and social justice. All unholy actions,
Calvin reasoned, resulted in suffering. Thus he proved out to the city
Geneva that dancing and other social vices always ended
with the wealthy oppressing the poor. A holy life, in his outlook, was
pietistic and simple, a life that shunned extravagance, excess, and
vanity. On a personal level, Calvin believed that suffering would be a
manifestation of taking on the Cross of Christ, but suffering was also
part of the process of holiness. He expected that all Christians would
suffer in this life, not as punishment, but rather as participation in
union with Christ, who suffered for them. And yet, socially, Calvin
argued that a holy society would end up as a gentle, kindly society
(except to criminals) where the poor would be protected from the
abuses of the wealthy, the lawyers, and others who normally preyed
In Protestantism, especially in American branches of
the more Pentecostal variety, holiness has acquired the secondary
meaning of the reshaping of a person through spiritual rebirth. The
term owes its origin to John Wesley's concept of "scriptural holiness"
or Christian perfection.
Holiness movement began within
Methodism in the United States,
among those who thought the church had lost the zeal and emphasis on
personal holiness of Wesley's day. In the latter part of the 19th
century revival meetings were held, attended by thousands. In
Vineland, N.J in 1867 a camp meeting was begun and the National
Holiness Camp Meeting Association went on to establish many holiness
camp meetings across the nation. Some adherents to the movement
remained within their denominations; others founded new denominations,
such as the Free
Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, and the
God (Anderson). Within a generation another movement, the
Pentecostal movement was born, drawing heavily from the Holiness
movement. Around the middle of the 20th century, the Conservative
Holiness Movement, a conservative offshoot of the Holiness movement,
was born. The
Higher Life movement appeared in the British Isles
during the mid-19th century.
In the contemporary Holiness movement, the idea that holiness is
relational is growing. In this thought, the core notion of holiness is
love. Other notions of holiness, such as purity, being set apart,
perfection, keeping rules, and total commitment, are seen as
contributory notions of holiness. These contributory notions find
their ultimate legitimacy when love is at their core (Thomas Jay Oord
and Michael Lodahl).
Commonly recognized outward expressions or "standards" of holiness
among more fundamental adherents frequently include applications
relative to dress, hair, and appearance: e.g., short hair on men,
uncut hair on women, and prohibitions against shorts, pants on women,
make-up and jewelry. Other common injunctions are against places of
worldly amusement, mixed swimming, smoking, minced oaths, as well as
the eschewing of television and radio.
More traditional or mainline Protestant denominations, such as the
Anglican, Lutheran, and some
Methodist denominations, believe in Holy
Sacraments that the clergy perform, such as
Holy Communion and Holy
Baptism. As well as strong belief in the Holy Catholic Church, Holy
Scripture, Holy Trinity, and the Holy Covenant. They also believe that
angels and saints are called to holiness.
See also: Glorification
Among the names of
God in the Qur'an is القدوس
(Al-Quddus) : found in 59:23 and 62:1, the closest English
translation is "holy" or "sacred". It shares the same triliteral
Semitic root as the Hebrew kodesh (see below). Another use of the same
root is found in the Arabic name for Jerusalem: al-Quds, "the Holy".
The word حرام (ħarām), often translated as "prohibited" or
"forbidden", is better understood as "sacred" or "sanctuary" in the
context of places considered sacred in Islam, e. g.: the Masjid
Sacred Mosque in Mecca, constituting the immediate
precincts of the Ka'aba; al-Haramain or "the (two) Sanctuaries", a
reference to the twin holy cities of
Mecca and Medina; and the Haram
ash-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, the precincts of the Dome of the Rock
and al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
See also: Q-D-Š, Tzadik, and Holy of Holies
The Hebrew word קֹדֶשׁ, transliterated as qodesh, has been used
Torah to mean set-apartness and separateness as well as
holiness and sacredness. The
Torah describes the Aaronite priests
and the Levites as being selected by
God to perform the Temple
services; they, as well, are called "holy." Some[who?] consider that
the Hebrew noun for "holiness," kedushah (Hebrew: קדושה), from
the adjective kodesh, "holy," has the connotation of
However, holiness is not a single state, but contains a broad
Mishnah lists concentric circles of holiness surrounding
the Temple in Jerusalem: Holy of Holies, Temple Sanctuary, Temple
Vestibule, Court of Priests, Court of Israelites, Court of Women,
Temple Mount, the walled city of Jerusalem, all the walled cities of
Israel, and the borders of the Land of Israel.
Distinctions are made as to who and what are permitted in each area.
Jewish holidays and the
Shabbat are considered to be
holy in time; the
Torah calls them "holy [days of] gathering". Work is
not allowed on those days, and rabbinic tradition lists 39 categories
of activity that are specifically prohibited.
Beyond the intrinsically holy, objects can become sacred through
consecration. Any personal possession may be dedicated to the Temple
of God, after which its misappropriation is considered among the
gravest of sins. The various sacrifices are holy. Those that may be
eaten have very specific rules concerning who may eat which of their
parts, and time limits on when the consumption must be completed. Most
sacrifices contain a part to be consumed by the priests – a portion
of the holy to be consumed by God's holy devotees.
The encounter with the holy is seen as eminently desirable, and at the
same time fearful and awesome. For the strongest penalties are applied
to one who transgresses in this area – one could in theory receive
either the death penalty or the heavenly punishment of kareth,
spiritual excision, for mis-stepping in his close approach to God's
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Sacred natural sites
^ "Sacred", A Dictionary of the English Language (James Stormonth,
Philip Henry Phelp, eds.), Blackwood & sons, 1895, p.883
^ a b "Difference Between
Sacred and Holy", DifferenceBetween.com,
September 26, 2013
^ McCann, Catherine. New Paths Toward the
Sacred Thus, Paulist Press,
2008 ISBN 9780809145515
^ "Sacred", Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 5th edition, p.875
^ Pope, Hugh. "Holiness." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 7. New York:
Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 20 November 2016. This article
incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
^ Oxford Dictionary Online
^ Altizer, Thomas J. J. (1968),
Mircea Eliade and the Dialectic of the
Sacred, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
^ Eliade, Mircea (1987), The
Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of
Religion, translated by Willard R. Trask. San Diego: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, Inc. ISBN 978-0156-79201-1.
^ Iţu, Mircia (2006), Mircea Eliade, Bucharest: Editura Fundaţiei
România de Mâine, p. 35. ISBN 973-725-715-4.
^ Durkheim 1915, p. 47
^ Pals 1996, p. 99
^ Blue Letter Bible. ""H6944 - qodesh - Strong's Hebrew Lexicon
(HNV)."". Retrieved 28 Jun 2016.
Durkheim, Emile (1915) The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.
London: George Allen & Unwin (originally published 1915, English
Eliade, Mircea (1957) The
Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of
Religion. Translated by Willard R. Trask. (New York: Harcourt, Brace
Thomas Jay Oord
Thomas Jay Oord and Michael Lodahl (2006) Relational Holiness:
Responding to the Call of Love. Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill.
Pals, Daniel (1996) Seven Theories of Religion. New York: Oxford
University Press. US ISBN 0-19-508725-9 (pbk).
Sharpe, Eric J. (1986) Comparative Religion: A History, 2nd ed.,
(London: Duckworth, 1986/La Salle: Open Court). US
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