The early Celts had an affinity for the spirit world. Gifted with imagination, they found the threshold between this and the unseen world easy to cross. They used to say that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, and that in the thin places the distance is even smaller! The term ‘thin places’ can put words on our own experiences of being drawn beyond ourselves into awesome yet kindly Mystery.
It is not strange that we have such experiences. Creation, after all, is intense with divinity. Divinity embraces us, and reveals itself, unpredictably if we have eyes to see. The veil between God’s world and what we call ‘our world’ is often drawn back for a moment to give us a glimpse of the ‘beyond.’ Thomas Merton rightly says that the gate of heaven is everywhere. Places of beauty, wild landscapes, lonely mountains, magnificent sunsets, starry nights, or the roaring sea can enchant us. On other levels, falling in love can open up a transfigured world. Or the divine breaks through in a smile, a baby’s tiny finger, human beauty, a kind remark, a bar of music. The beggar’s face, the eyes of a starving child, the hushed moment of death of someone we loved can also break open the door of the heart. Be alert for such ‘thin places’ for God can be found in all things.
— Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2014
If you want to see, listen.
— St. Bernard
“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
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.
— Sharlande Sledge
Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer
I’m drawn to places that beguile and inspire, sedate and stir, places where, for a few blissful moments I loosen my death grip on life, and can breathe again. It turns out these destinations have a name: thin places … thin places are much deeper than that. They are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever. Travel to thin places does not necessarily lead to anything as grandiose as a “spiritual breakthrough,” whatever that means, but it does disorient. It confuses. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. Either way, we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformative magic of travel.
… So what exactly makes a place thin? It’s easier to say what a thin place is not. A thin place is not necessarily a tranquil place, or a fun one, or even a beautiful one, though it may be all of those things too … Thin places relax us, yes, but they also transform us — or, more accurately, unmask us. In thin places, we become our more essential selves.
… Many thin places are wild, untamed, but cities can also be surprisingly thin.
…Yet, ultimately, an inherent contradiction trips up any spiritual walkabout: The divine supposedly transcends time and space, yet we seek it in very specific places and at very specific times. If God (however defined) is everywhere and “everywhen,” as the Australian aboriginals put it so wonderfully, then why are some places thin and others not? Why isn’t the whole world thin? Maybe it is but we’re too thick to recognize it. Maybe thin places offer glimpses not of heaven but of earth as it really is, unencumbered. Unmasked.
–– Eric Weiner (excerpt from Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer, New York Times, March 2012) author of Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine
May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart that something good is going to happen to you.
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.
May the mansion of your soul never become a haunted place.
May you know the eternal longing which lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May your angel free you from the prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment, and despair.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.
–– John O’Donohue from Eternal Echoes