A long time ago driving down the California coast I found myself looking at a long stretch of sand, rocks, waves, and mountains. And I said: I could look at this all day. A year later I was doing just that – a mile up the hill, at a monastic retreat house. It was an opportunity for rest and renewal, for silence, solitude, and contemplation.
It was there I found a ‘thin place’ – a place where the membrane was perceptibly permeable between the world of sensory input and the world of the Spirit. You could say, I was in a place where I was able to become aware of that thin veil.
The thin place I found there is before an altar – with a great skylight above it pouring down illumination on us as we gathered for Eucharist. And as we sat in meditation, the silence was vibrant.
The air was filtered with light. We could stay there as long as we liked.
At night the space was silent and dark, lit only by an altar lamp and a candle burning by an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
You could sing good-night to her, after Compline. Follow the monks as they singled out, and sing.
At midnight on New Year’s Eve we rang in the new year with the rosary. I built a fire in my cell, in the big patent stove. As the flames roared, old journals seemed ready to burn, old memories ready to become incense.
Something stirred there that was becoming, coming into being more fully, with each moment of prayer.
I go back to that thin place periodically, on retreat. I like to stop on the way and touch bases at other places that speak to me – an old general store with a pot-bellied stove, a rocky outreach into the ocean, and a place of pines and quiet.
But of course we cannot always go back – we never really do go back – but we can visit the sacred again in new places, or old.
One of the most prominent and convenient places to visit the sacred is in the Eucharist. Eucharist is a thin place we make for each other in the intention and the quiet, the prayer and the movement and the stillness, as we come together to hear the Word and remember the gift – and share it, and be still, and know our God is present.
This is the blessing – God is here. God is here.
And we go forth transformed – from thin place and Eucharist. Gradually we learn – the thin place is everywhere. Everywhere the heart is open and God can come. And he will dwell in us; and we in him.
Be peaceful. Be at home. Find the place in your heart where Spirit can breathe, Word can speak, and Creator make new.
Be blessed in the bread and in the stillness. Carry that peace with you – know it is always there, waiting for you. If only behind a veil, God is here.