The holy place

“Sometimes we need a holy place to awaken us to the holiness of every place. Sometimes we need a holy thing to awaken us to the holiness of everything.” – James Finley, from the cds Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere

For me, personally, this quote gets at the heart of the very best impulses of religion. It is also one of my most central motivations in wanting to enter ministry.

There is a sense in which we would be fine without religion, if we could recognize the holiness of life and appreciate depth and sacred nature of our lives, just as they are. The reason that religion can be so helpful is that we so often forget just how rich our lives are, and we live in the hustle and bustle of life without being attuned to this fact. There are special moments, though, that we all share, that snap us back, that take us to that deeper place: a birth of a child, a breathtaking view of nature, simple solitude after a noisy day, or falling in love.

For me, what religion can do is provide the space, the atmosphere, to remind us of what we all know to be most true and pure about ourselves. Churches do not exist as extra-special-holy-places, although many of the religious tend to think this. Instead, I think that churches exist to point us to the sacred nature of all of life.  For many religions, and for many contemplatives and mystics in different religions, this is what enlightenment is: realizing that every moment is lived within a holy cathedral.

This idea motivates me toward ministry because I think that there are far too few spaces where we can pause and reflect on life in a deep and profound manner. As such, it is easy to lose touch with the best and most perfect parts of our hearts and souls. Once we lose touch with ourselves, with the best of ourselves, it is easy to compensate for this in ways that seem to good for us but in reality cause harm to ourselves and others.

Finding a holy place is so important. Finding a holy thing is important. A beautiful natural space; a letter from a deceased friend or relative; an alter or relic; a stuffed animal from childhood; a favorite old book; a special chair. There are so many places and items that seem packed with meaning; and yet, if we let them, these places and things can remind us that each moment is rich and full of meaning, if we can open to what it offers.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

3 thoughts on “The holy place”

  1. I’ve always loved the way the old patriarchs in the Old Testament have perceived the importance of place. Place is always deeply connected with the theophanies they experienced. It somehow gave that which was mystical and beyond comprehension an earthiness and a hook of remembrance – the building of alters of remembrance in these places. Nice post.


  2. Don,

    Thank you.

    Very true, what you say. That’s a great reminder. Alters. Land. The Ebenezer. Temples. There is a treasure trove of truth in the Old Testament on the issue of place. There is also a deep emotional responsiveness that we find, especially when we read about David or study the Psalms he wrote.

    The earthly connection of place is also found via the annual feasts and celebrations. So, it isn’t just sacred space, but sacred time. A passover celebration is a sacred time that reminds us that all of our time is precious, to be used to live in a rich and full way, devoted to the righteous life of God.


  3. At one time i thought that GOD lived in a church building. How stupit of me , I searched for a week dureing the day all the doors of the churchs were closed but one . I went in after all it was GODS house i thought . Shortly after a man came in and told me to get out this is a church not GODS house. Afterwards i found in the scriptures GOD lives in us not in a building made with mans hands . the concussion is this the pit in our chest is were HE is and IF we stop telling people what we think and start listening to that still soft voice . HE will tell you everything you want to know, even tell you things you need to know and dont know . His voice does not come from your mind . IT comes from that still solf voice from in side of you .It will tell you things your mind does not know. And things you never heard before . Ask him and HE will prove it to you like HE did to me May HE bless you like HE does me.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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