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Our market economy, has made of Christmas a season for gifts, parties, eating and drinking. But the real essence is, or should be, in sharing, joy, and social and family reunions.

During this season, we decorate our homes and businesses with bright colors, flashing lights, and the Christmas tree. Still some of us remember to include the nativity scene in our decorations.

Well, let’s remember that this is the source of it all: the birth of Jesus Christ, born in humility, without luxuries, bringing peace, lighted by the shinning star of Bethlehem, and adored by shepherds who were announced of the occasion by angels, and by kings from afar, guided by a star. When you look it like this, you can probably feel the miracle and the profound nature of the spirituality of this scene.

While I am not going to advocate to stop the celebration of Christmas as a pagan ritual here, I’m going to try to make you conscious of the need to awaken the spiritual values and experiences in our lives, not only during the season, but every day.

And the truth is, that we are able to experience deep spiritual feelings in many different occasions or situations. we are involved sometimes in social activities, like caring and touching a newborn (or puppy), the wedding of loved ones, meeting with friends and families not seen in a long time, or loosing a loved one… or feeling in love! We do feel a connection there… and a sense of some spirituality, of peace.

We also become amazed and spiritually sensitized, when we see a dark sky full of stars, or a very bright full moon, a sunrise or sunset with multiple colors, a rainbow, a natural landscape, a scenic view, flower, cascades, or the wonders of plants and animals sharing an ecosystem… The landscape is also a source of spiritual connection.

Spirituality can be experienced in built spaces, in architecture. Some homes have that special quality that evokes peace, relaxation, contemplation, harmony.

Well designed churches or spiritual environs (even homes) use many resources to evoke the spiritual emotion. We recognize the sculpture and images that portray the history of catholic churches in their walls and pillars, as an iconic message of the spiritual lives of the saints and the intended message of the building. We can relate to the scale of churches with high (and sometimes vaulted ceilings) that remind us of the heavens and the larger than life God. Sometimes, wall or ceiling frescoes or paintings with iconic messages further create the atmosphere.

Other resources help us get in the mood: Light, specially filtered, coming from above or bellow, with light washes over walls or thru cross like openings in walls… or filtered thru stain glass windows with images or colors, complement the spaces to further create special illumination and lighting. Temperature, color and materials bend together to enhance the experience. and last but not least, sound… as you walkover wood planks, when you sing or pray out loud, when sound reverberates against walls and high ceilings.

And let us not forget the cultural traditions of holly cities, or sacred precincts where special ceremonies or experiences were celebrated on special occasions. And also the amazing experiences felt when visiting some historical cities or sites.

You see, architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism can contribute to, and reflect the highest spiritual (and social) values that our community embraces. We need Good Design. For Good Design adds Value to our Lives!

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