by Juliet Gregory(Parishioner of SJC)
Have you ever heard of what the Celtics called “Thin Places” where for a moment the space between heaven and earth becomes so thin that we feel an overwhelming presence of God? The poet Sharlande Sledge aptly illustrates the profundity and beauty of this divine space 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.
2018 began very much on the other end of the spectrum – a thick place I’d like to call it. Drowned in overwhelming circumstances and roiled in emotions, I yearned for silence, clarity, and peace. It was that very time that I met a Jesuit priest – as warm and friendly as one can be – we conversed easily and I asked about Maranatha. That was the beginning of my tapping into Ignatian spirituality that piqued my curiosity and planted a deep desire for a quiet retreat, to be centered and connected with God. As the days passed and the retreat beckoned, I looked forward to this time up the hills in Janda Baik and then being there was beyond anything I could have imagined. My quiet retreat at Maranatha, my little vacation with God, was precisely this God shaped space.
Early Sunday morning – the final day of retreat, I woke up to the sound of water gushing down the fall and brinded robins singing Alleluia. I walked to my favourite little spot up the hill that I found the day before and sat on the wood, cool with the morning drizzle. Before me was a sacred landscape, a canvas of calm hues of blue and green. I took a deep breath and listened to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s words echo with the wind, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out – like shining from shook foil.”
Gazing far out, I saw the lofty mountains in all its grandiose caped in a myriad of shades of green and grey. Strong. Upright. Above, I saw an ocean, not apart from below but one – both seamed together by brother Sun’s glorious flood of gold and yellow – looking down, embracing in all its soft white sails.
All ‘round me I saw trees walking this land as their fathers did. Branches and leaves – couple-coloured and stippled – swaying in incandescence, singing to the robins as they called back in honeyed cadence. Their glass beaded fingers defined by the morning’s first burst of light.
The fluttering of wings.
The gush of wind – sweet, crisp.
The distant sound of a flowing river.
The assurance of life.
I breathed in and felt it all fill my being. And the light is not all on the other side. It’s here in this rambunctious world around me. The endless orchestra of waking, wading, walking, whistling is all filled with God’s active presence. Thin Places within a Thin Place.
And then I hear, “I am Here”. In that quiet moment, my heart seemed too small a space to hold what it felt. In that quiet moment, I felt my fingers touch the edge of heaven.
Coming home from this retreat, everything has changed. My engagement with Ignatian spirituality has shifted to a personal connection with God. A conviction that I can find God in all things. Now, I wake up smiling. It’s the sheer joy of experiencing His presence from listening to the sparrows’ song outside my window or from the movement of clouds or the light through the leaves in a tree and the beauty right after the rain.