Happy Thanksgiving, dear friend and reader!
We took a winding road up to a site overlooking the Sea of Galilee – an avid group of pilgrims and a wiry, knowledgeable, Israeli guide named Menahan Hefetz. This is the place, Menana Hefetz told us, where Jesus fed the 5000. A hush fell over the group, each of us taking in every contour of the land, going over the text in our minds, moved by emotions of awe and joy that surprised us with their strength.
On that sunny day twenty- one centuries ago, the hunger of the people was satisfied and there were leftovers. Jesus had fed them all. Since then, the spot had become a holy place – but unlike other holy places, no commemorative building was erected there. It was left as a meadow, a sacred space.
Sacred spaces are those places where something unique happened: something unrepeatable, forever impressive and memorable. Before you read on, stop to think of your own sacred spaces.
People need sacred space like Plymouth Rock and the World Trade Center. People create shrines in places where people have died as victims of tragedy or accident. In times of great need, people go to sacred spaces, or we create them or recognize them buried within the ordinary.
One reason the nation’s highways and airways are clogged these days is because people are going home, going to be with loved ones. Home is a sacred space. We know the smell of it, the foods that are repeatedly served there, the couch that everyone claims, the old tree in the backyard that’s good for climbing.
The sacred space of home.
The sacred space of our hearts and memories.
The Christian sacred space on the hillside over the Sea of Galilee and the upper room in Jerusalem.
The sacred space at the table of the Lord in our own churches.
We need them to live and grow.
Today, let’s let our mind’s eye rove among the sacred spaces of this earth and thank God for them. Our own beloved sacred spaces – yes! and the sacred spaces of others as well.
On Thursday, when we celebrate Thanksgiving I hope we embrace people all over the world savoring their sacred spaces, weeping as the Philippine people weep over the sacred spaces that have been destroyed. I hope we take time for Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day, which for us disciples of the Lord Jesus, our Savior and Brother, is the sacred space that is more important than any other. Here all are welcome with all their emotions, needs, sorrows and delights.
My colleague at Nativity Church, Brockport, Father Ted Auble, says that the Eucharistic table is very long. It extends in both directions, to the deep past and into the hazy future. All are welcome at this table.
Are all welcome in your own personal sacred space?
~Joan Sobala, SSJ