Grandeur

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
~Gerard Manley Hopkins

We titled this pilgrimage we are on ‘In Search of Sacred Places.’ In fact, the guiding line is taken from a book by Daniel Taylor who traveled several of the islands surrounding Celtic lands on his own pilgrimage of skepticism and searching. The inscription that begins the book says simply:’For all spiritual questers who suspect there might be more to things than what we see.’ Yesterday as our 34 pilgrims made their way through landscape varied and diverse, what our eyes could take in couldn’t do justice to the depth and meaning that was being offered. The landscape is so big, so beautiful, so harsh and strong. Frankly, being present to a world ‘charged with the grandeur of God’ becomes a full bodied experience. Today we are spending time processing, allowing the experience to find words and understanding and to sink in and find a home. In short we are taking the time to make sense of the ways in which the Holy is present at all times, if we are awake and aware.

We titled this pilgrimage we are on ‘In Search of Sacred Places.’ In fact, the guiding line is taken from a book by Daniel Taylor who traveled several of the islands surrounding Celtic lands on his own pilgrimage of skepticism and searching. The inscription that begins the book says simply:’For all spiritual questers who suspect there might be more to things than what we see.’ Yesterday as our 34 pilgrims made their way through landscape varied and diverse, what our eyes could take in couldn’t do justice to the depth and meaning that was being offered. The landscape is so big, so beautiful, so harsh and strong. Frankly, being present to a world ‘charged with the grandeur of God’ becomes a full bodied experience. Today we are spending time processing, allowing the experience to find words and understanding and to sink in and find a home. In short we are taking the time to make sense of the ways in which the Holy is present at all times, if we are awake and aware.

Yesterday in the river town of Inverness we experienced a glorious day of sunshine and warmth, not something one associates with Scotland. The river was glistening with sunlight, flowers shot forth brilliant color from window boxes and hanging baskets. The castle that anchors the town stood sentinel as it has always done. And church steeples shot into the sky signaling places of worship, many of which have stood in that place for centuries. Still other church buildings, like one we visited had been de-consecrated and had been turned into a used book store packed to the gills with old books and the musty smell that accompanies them. I have visited other de-consecrated church buildings before and I always wonder about the people who had known these places that held the important moments of their lives…baptisms, weddings, funerals. What is it like to come into the space now filled with books or a cafe? What emotions must run through them? I have to admit a sense of sadness.

Later in the day we made our way along some of the most exquisite scenery I have ever experienced. Rolling, green farmland dotted with balls of white sheep and red, sturdy Highland cattle gave way to the golds and browns and russet reds of the Cuillin Hills. Sheep still graced the ground but in more precarious footing. Photos were snapped and eyes were filled with more and more grandeur, too much really to take in at one time.

Over dinner we took the time to name aloud those places where the grandeur of God had awakened us: the azure sky at not-quite-dark of the night before…the triple rainbow brought on by the morning sun and the misty sky…the sheep standing in their calm and contented way…the conversations with caretakers of churches visited…the birdsongs that seemed to have a different ‘accent’. On and on people shared the ways in which they were awake to the movement of God in their day.

Of course, we don’t need to travel thousands of miles to do this noticing. But most of the time we do need a band of fellow travelers who will help us to remember to stop, look, listen and pay attention. It is what faith communities have always done. As we closed our evening together with the words of the prophet Jeremiah, we stood with the long line of those who continue to follow the path of seeing more deeply and staying awake in times that pull us in countless directions. “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

May it be so.

 

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