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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sacred Space

With Easter nearly upon us, spiritual matters are on my mind more than usual. Easter is a time to re-evaluate my commitment to my faith and to reflect upon what I believe and so on. For me faith is the moral grounding that keeps me on the straight and narrow.

As part of my Lenten discipline (I use the word 'discipline' rather loosely) I attended two lectures (out of 5) on a couple of Wednesday evening evensong services. The topic of the first one I attended was 'We Love the Place O God: Sacred Space and Worship'. Which set me to thinking about places I have found to have the air of holiness about them; places where I would meditate or pray or do both.

Many people find special places in nature important for this kind of reflection rather than churches,which often are found my many to be cold and uninspiring.  For me, I often find that 'holy' places come unexpectedly -- it can be a cathedral or a seat beside a window in the shade of an oak tree. I have also been surprised by some of the places I might have expected to have a sense of holiness, but which in fact have left me cold...

The first place I felt a spiritual connection to was across the street from the house my parents bought in Connecticut in 1955, when I was 10. The land was and still is very wooded and belongs to the State. Our house was on a hill that lead up to Burr Pond State Park and across the street from our house was a waterfall, in fact two waterfalls, one above the other, which thundered down through the forest and could be heard from the house. The lower falls had been man made and could be very easily accessed from the road -- it was maybe 100 yards walk. I could sit on the edge of the waterfall where a pool formed just before the water fell and on the hottest summer days it would be cool under the trees that surrounded it. Whether I was troubled or happy that was the place I would head. In the picture on the left are the two little boys sitting on the very spot on the ledge of the lower falls to the left of them. Was I worried -- indeed! In the winter the pool and the waterfall would freeze and I sometimes skated there surrounded by snow and barren trees. As a young woman in the 60's I would spend hours there with my guitar contemplating how to save the world. It was for me a holy place.

The Lady Chapel of my church in Southport is another spiritual refuge for me. It is small and exquisitely built, with a vaulted ceiling and outside it is supported by flying butresses! Artistically it is a gem, but while artistry can add to the allure of a place, in my experience, it is not why a place has that special aura that leads to that special connection of all that is holy. All I know for sure is that for me this small chapel brings an inner peace and spiritual refreshment.

Other places that bring me this sense of renewal and peace include, Durham Cathedral, Clodock Church in the Parish of Hereford, the view across the gate of our house in France (below), the Oregon Coast, and Chartres Cathedral.



Do you have particular places that bring you a sense of renewal and inner peace?

17 comments:

  1. A beautiful, reflective post, Broad which set me thinking. For me views are important, but certain buildings and places even more so - the parish church where I was curate, Assisi, almost in its entirety, Taize in Burgundy, the very smallest church in my first parish. I could go on....

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    1. Assisi surely is very special and is one place I hope some day to return again. I have not been to Taize, but would very much like to go there, too. I have visited one very small church in Wales and it was spiritually very powerful, and will be attending church there again in May!

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  2. Beautiful post. For me its at the top of a mountain looking out over the vastness. If you don't mind as part of my post tomorrow I'll link to yours and post a pic of my 'spiritual' place.

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    1. I would not mind at all, Gaynor -- in fact feel quite honoured! So thank you. Looking forward to seeing a picture of your 'spiritual' place...

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  3. Nature never fails to inspire a spiritual connective feeling in me. But I have been in certain chapels that have brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Thank you for your visit Amy! I did so enjoy reading your posts the past few days. For me nature is a spiritual connection with God, while a chapel includes humanity and that can be very good, too...

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  4. We moved to the Oregon Coast because it has these special qualities we can enjoy all the time.
    Happy Easter!

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    1. You are truly blessed to be living there.

      Happy Easter to you, too.

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  5. The most spiritual place I've visited is called Stout Grove. It's on the Oregon/California boarder and it contains some of the biggest Sequoias on Earth. A stream runs through the grove and I remember thinking that this was the closest to God that I'd ever felt.

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    1. I do love those Sequoias -- when I saw them for the first time it was as if I'd never really seen a 'tree' before!

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  6. Hello Katherine:
    Of all the periods in the Church's calendar Easter is, for us, the most wondrous and the most precious and, by its very nature, gives cause to reflect on all aspects of life and, of course, on death too. And for that there are so many places to inspire, in addition to art, music, literature, all of which so often are the means by which life is enriched.

    We wish you every possible joy this Eastertide.

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    1. Jane and Lance, I too love Easter for all the reasons you have mentioned.

      And all the joy of Easter to you both...

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  7. Beautiful post Broad. As Easter draws upon us, I spend time out on my lanai thanking God for His Son and for the beautiful place He created for all of us to enjoy. I don't think a day goes by that I don't feel blessed that I live in a true earthly paradise. Have a wonderful Easter with your family, Broad. Smiles - Astrid

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    1. Thank you so much Astrid. And a wonderful Easter for you and your family, too.

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  8. Yes indeed, I do. Like you, it can be nature, it can be the time of day or night even, and it can be a place where people have worshipped for centuries. Rarely is it one of the larger cathedrals, it's usually one of the tiny, ancient churches you find all over Europe. A wayside shrine will do.

    But the best place of all is deep inside of me, when I'm alone and quiet, when my mind is still and something happens, that comes and fills me with awe.

    Happy Easter.

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    1. I so love what you have said at the end -- it is so true -- that stillness within. A friend of mine long ago said that that is where we are at one with God. Thank you so much for reminding me of the 'holiness' within...

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  9. What a lovely post, which I have only just read after Easter. My beachhouse which perches about the river mouth where the Moore River meets the Indian Ocean, 100 kms north of Perth, Western Australia is my "sacred" place. But I have been enormously touched also my tiny churches in Europe, in little villages, filled with those who believe.

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!