In that space between sleeping and waking, in this blue green breezy world of Rivendell, I became aware that I felt held, like lying in a hammock. This retreat place on top of a treed hill looked down it seemed over mountains: white, green, blue. In my imagination I began to move out over the sky. The hammock now felt like I was lying in a blanket similar to what must have come down from heaven in the story of St. Peter and the un/kosher animals. I felt peaceful, even exhilarated.
My overworked, overstressed exhaustion seemed to drain from my mind and body. The blanket then seemed to harden into a sieve, like an old bed with no mattress but bendable. On every updraft and landing, something fell from me through the sieve. It was like the junk from my life was falling away. I now turned and seemed to take a more active role in my movement.
It felt like I was gliding like a bird among the trees, looking down upon the distant mountains and ocean. I felt purified. I felt free. I unclenched my jaw and arose to write, shivering from the cool wind coming in through the window over the desk. A net of peace fell over my emotions. Everything would be OK in its time. I felt held.
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?