How lovely is your dwelling place, Oh, Lord of Hosts. (sung)
How lovely is your dwelling place, Oh, Lord of Hosts. (repeated)
The celebration of this consecrated chapel does indeed focus us on this lovely dwelling place!
So often when our guests and visitors step in here, they are just amazed, overwhelmed and
almost speechless. What a special place just to stand in this space. Yes, this chapel holds within
it mystery and a holy presence! It holds the hearts and voices of many of our sisters who now
see God face to face.
I have been reading a book entitled “Braving the Thin Places” by Julianne Stanz, with a
subtitle “Celtic Wisdom to Create a Space for Grace.”. “a Space for Grace”. How fitting for
Celtic Spirituality refers to places where the separation between this world and heaven
becomes so minimal that we sense the presence of God. They call these moments, “thin
places.” It is also known as “a sacred moment spurred on by a spiritual practice or a deep
conversation that pierces the soul.” The Celts believed that the distance between heaven and
earth shrinks and time and eternity embrace. They thought of thin places as physical,
geographical locations where the barrier between heaven and earth is porous.
We know of these physical, geographical locations from the Old Testament. As we remember,
Moses came upon a burning bush and upon examining the phenomenon he heard God say, “I
Am Who I Am”, And Jacob and his struggle with God which left him crippled, Elijah hearing a
tiny, soft voice and Solomon asking God for the gift of Wisdom.
With the Incarnation of Jesus, there is no further need for such temporary Theophanes. The veil
between heaven and earth is not just thin but is completely torn apart. Through the power of the
Holy Spirit, we are now the dwelling place of God!
In Thomas Merton’s autobiography, he writes, “I thought churches were simply places where
people got together and sang a few hymns…and yet now I tell you, it is the Sacrament…Christ
living in our midst.” Yes. wherever Jesus went, he created “thin places”. Jesus tells us over
and over again, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Sometimes, we sense thin places when we stand before God’s creation and marvel at its majesty
and beauty. Sometimes we feel it in cathedrals and churches. Sometimes, the thin places
appear in everyday life. They’re the places where love and compassion reign. Where forgiveness
overcomes resentment. Sometimes they are places of fear and hardship and opens us to places
of rawness and beauty Whatever the circumstances, a thin place is where God and humanity
meet in mysterious ways They are places where God’s grace is waiting to happen.
We do not have to travel to distant places or make pilgrimages abroad. But we can strive to be
more reflective, contemplative and present to the NOW. The psalms we pray daily, are full of
“thin places”. As in Psalm 63: Just imagine the “thin space” …
“On my bed, I lie awake, your memory fills the night. You have been my help;
I rejoice beneath your wings. Yes, I cling to you, your right hand holds me fast.”
One day every place will be overwhelmingly thin. But for now, at this time, let us be open and
aware of the thin places we encounter which will delight our souls and prepare us for the
presence of God.
As we enter into the feast of this lovely dwelling place, this place of beauty, let us open
ourselves to the power of this time and place, to the symbols that speak of mystery, of our
special lighted candles, the music, color and ritual and one another – may we be aware of this
thin place where God desires to fill us with mystery and awe. We pray that we may approach
this place with honor and reverence, leaving behind all that can distract us from the Sacred that
calls out to us so that we might be filled with the goodness and grace of God. Let us pray with
“Your temple is my joy, Lord of heaven’s might.
I am eager for it,
eager for the courts of God.
As a sparrow homing, a swallow seeking a nest
to hatch its young, I am eager for your altars.”
O Lord, God of Host!