“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy. ~ Sharlande Sledge
I sat on the patio last Wednesday, looking up and around.
The noon sky seemed a deeper blue than I ever remember seeing, the clouds suspended there a richer white. For a moment, just a moment. I felt I could literally step into it. Into them.
The whole day felt like such a day as would make walking dangerous for Enoch. Was this just a glimpse of what he sensed as he stepped out for his walk with God? Did he sense it – that day when he walked with God and then couldn’t be found because God took him?
The whole day seemed like that for me. The whole day a thin place as the Celts describe. It wasn’t a space or place, no sublime vista of nature or restive retreat nestled in far away hills. More a cathedral of time filled with the mundane, with noises, movements, the normal hurrying and scurrying, chatter and splatter of sounds, colors, shapes. And faces.
The whole day I felt uncannily like Terrence Mann in Field of Dreams, tentatively sticking his hand into the cornfield and then drawing it back, standing on the edge of…what? He can only wonder. I felt that laughter, that nervous, joyous laughter of “Is this for real? Do I dare venture past? Do I even care about a return ticket?”
While an electrician worked in one room, I sat with a friend in another. Faces aflame with subtle divine realities as we spoke of other worlds, of divine possibilities in common places that sent my mind spinning to the reaches of the Milky Way.
Transported now to a home health care center. Deaccessing a chemo port. Fourth round rolls round. For the first time I’m not the only one in the room. Another cocooned in a blanket nearby, being infused. Another stumbles about tethered to his pole. Flash back to grade school. Visions of pupa, cocoon, transformation. Like Dave Bowman in 2001, I feel I am watching progressive images of myself in a darkened corner. No fight or flight. I hold out my hand into dancing stalks amidst IV poles and chemo cubicles.
Now innocence tethered to her own seemingly interminable chemo pole calls. A nine-year-old face asking for a tall cherry icee. An errand that turns into something of an archaeological dig in an SUV with layers of life accumulated over a winter of surgeries and infusions. Search, excavation, clean-up. And in the midst of it another face. Sister. Friend. Digging literally into a tel of survival, and finding in that company, in those moments, yet another edge of my own field of dreams infused with rich portals of life and grace and kingdom come.
Then I sat looking over a peacefield of waving grass and swaying trees, of horses, mule, chickens and dog. But it is my brother’s face, his voice that catches me as we sit together. Deaccessed and yet fully accessed. Accessing. Accessible.
Recalling that midday view of sky and clouds, I realized the thinnest places are the faces. I recall the Catholic congregants respectfully bowing before the Host at the front of the church, because there they see residing the Body of Christ. Suddenly I realize that is the posture, if we were sensible, we would be constantly taking with one another. The Host is in us. We are the Body. To sense such should evoke the holy kisses we find impractical, anachronistic, too intimate. Holy kisses of delight in a Divine presence discerned, as we extend our hands out into the stalks, echoing his laughter.
And now my eyes fall upon Rohr contemplations on Eucharist:
I believe that the primary healing of human loneliness and meaninglessness is full contact with full reality itself, especially in its concrete forms (instead of just ideas and concepts). But, as T. S. Elliot said in the Four Quartets, “[Human]kind cannot bear very much reality.” What human existence often prefers is highly contrived ways of avoiding the real, the concrete, the physical. We fabricate artificial realities instead, one of which, I’m sad to say, is religion itself. So Jesus brought all of our fancy thinking down to earth, to one concrete place of incarnation—this bread and this cup of wine! “Eat it here, and then see it everywhere,” He seems to be saying.
If it’s too idealized and pretty, if it’s somewhere floating around up in the air, it’s probably not the Gospel. We come back, again and again, to this marvelous touchstone of orthodoxy, the Eucharist. Eucharist, in the first physical incarnation in the body of Jesus, is now continued in space and time in ordinary food. Note how John (see John 6:53-66) almost embarrassingly keeps insisting on the fleshly physicality of it all! And “many left Him and stopped going with Him.” It is still an embarrassment of sorts, so we high churches surround the scandal with all kinds of pretty gold and lace and candles.
Eat it here, then see it everywhere. Full contact with full reality. Don’t know if I have ever gotten nearly half that far, but that is, perhaps, the most apt description of the “thin places” I experienced that day. I began to see it that day in those faces, in that sky. It wasn’t conjured, manipulated, or prettied with gold and lace and candles. It was just there and I extended my hand into the stalks.
Yes, on such a day it is dangerous for Enoch to venture forth on his walk with God.
But then, ahhh, I am still here.