The rooms overlooked the city. The rooms with their coloured walls took my attention. As did the happy greetings from the others that morning.
So cup and cookie in hand we chatted about this and that of which we saw and felt. My seat was in the second row of the circle of friends. As I took in the surrounding beauty, I noticed a salt and pepper size nativity scene at my feet. It stood on the iron floor pedestal of the nearby lamp.
The location for the holy scene was so unusual but in keeping with the holy event. Was this not the same low-key of the Bethlehem appearance of the holy three?
Unseen by others my attention was drawn again and again toward the Christ child so low. It was a reminder to invite God’s real time presence into the meeting. If only I had realized it at the time.
The cedar-paneled room was in the basement of the institution. I was led there on a personal artist tour. An altar was set up with Bible and candle. Some chairs were in the small chapel space. Floor to ceiling framed photos lined one wall. The disabled guests here are remembered after they die. They each know that they will not be forgotten. It gives them comfort. I felt in awe of such respect and love but was not willing to be part of that group. It was God who made this space holy.
Another room surprised me with its presence in a different institution. Again I had had a personal tour to a room I did not know existed. A locked wood and glass cabinet was here. Books all bound the same; each had one name. Our conversation, for my benefit, was about a specific doctoral candidate’s thesis. But the door key was not found. Here too each person special to the group was honoured. These leaders were God chosen.
These two spaces caused me much thought. The visits were 4 years apart. My mind and heart saw their similarity only now. The first honoured the lowly of our society. It brought me to tears. The second storied tour inspired sadness. I would have liked to have been included in that group one day but was not willing to pay the price for entry here either. I am not of the most disabled lowly nor one of the elite doctoral academics. Both are equal in God’s economy. Only God knows how I will be remembered.
A raised cement labyrinth on a grassy area behind a sold building causes me to wonder if that neglected space would still be holy. Another labyrinth painted on tarmac shines barely visible as children play nearby. Does holiness come and go according to the use of the space?
What makes a place holy? I knit and pray in my garden room by the window. It seems that a place called Lourdes in France where lots of healings are reported to have happened would be called holy. A great place that lays over land and sea too is deemed holy as kings have been buried there. St. Columba founded this Iona Abbey in Scotland. Are some places more holy than others? Do more prayers get answered there?
We honour God and God shows up. Or perhaps God honours us so we can show up. The Celts called these spaces, thin places – landscapes where the kingdom of God has broken through the earth. Are they locations where the Spirit has broken through the hardness of the human heart? Is holiness a feeling that happens in God’s presence? This is what I ponder this third week of Advent.
What do you think? Have you experienced a holy place or a holy feeling?