This coming Friday is not only the 13th of the month, but it also co-incides with a full moon. And my pagan circle does full moon circles on the nearest Friday. That makes this Friday more than a little bit special. So special, in fact, that I considered asking permission to leave work early on Friday on the grounds that it was a holy day. Except I didn’t really want to use that phrase. However I could call it sacred.
But is there a difference? That got me thinking.
Wikipedia says they are the same. Well, actually one redirects to the other with no mention of the difference. In the Evangelical Christian churches, the word “holy” is fairly widespread. It appears in songs, it appears in creeds and prayers. It appears in scripture and pastors even talk about it from time to time.
But the word “sacred” is rather rarer, in my experience.
I’ve understand that more Catholic and more Orthodox Christianity have a better idea of what “sacred” means. Unlike evangelical churches, they tend to have items that they do call “sacred”. These are items used in particular rituals and only those rituals. There are probably special rituals for making the sacred to begin with: this is a practice called consecration. This is a lot more like how Pagan practices work, so far as I understand it. I’ve commented before how this is all largely missing from Evangelical churches.
I can’t call just anything “holy”. This is a term I can’t easily imagine as anything other than a pre-existing condition. Like Yahweh is holy. But “sacred” is different: this feels like the result of a process. You make things sacred – and then they are set apart for special purposes, often ritualistic purpose. They can lose their sacredness, too. Then they have to be consecrated again. I made the objects on my alter sacred. Or at least, sacred to me. They are only for the alter. Most items have been purpose sourced, but one was not. I re-purposed a kitchen knife as my athame. It is not a kitchen knife anymore and were I to use it so, I would want to re-consecrate it.
But that’s objects. Items. Tools, if you will. Days are quite different.
To many Christians, Sunday is a holy day. The activities the religion of Christianity expects and has created for that day define the holiness. Paganism and Wicca also have times in the calendar that the religion defines as holy or sacred. For the large part this is the full moon (and to a lesser extent the new or dark moon) as well as the eight sabbats throughout the year. These are really no less holy or sacred than Christianity’s Sunday.
And that’s where I get tangled with terminology again. Has the church made their Sunday sacred? Or has it been given to them as holy? Does it even matter? If I stick with that distinction between holy and sacred, then I can only regard the full moon evenings (when we do the circles) as sacred because it is meaning that has been added. I’ve added this. For me.
It also leaves the term “holy” behind with Christianity. Meanwhile, I can use “sacred” simply because my church so rarely did.
They can have their “holy”. I prefer “sacred” anyway. It means I (or someone else) has actively done something to consecrate it. We tend to value things more that we’ve worked over, after all.