“After some time we came into the beautiful darkened abbey church, lit only with candles, their light flickering and briefly illuminating the wood of the cross. The Celts have a marvelous expression for places like Jamberoo. They call them the ‘thin places’ of the world, where it seems that the veil between heaven and earth is all but transparent, diaphanous, where God seems very near, and finding God seems easy. If you ask the nuns they will no doubt tell you that God can hide his face there just as well as anywhere else, but there are some places in the world – and, for me, Jamberoo is one of them – where it seems possible to drink in God as you drink in the silence of the place. I am sure it has something to do with the way in which a place becomes consecrated, set apart for God, holy, as it soaks up the prayers of the people who come there.”
These words are from In the Light of the Cross, by Fr Christopher Ryan MGL, a collection of reflections on the Australian journey of the World Youth Day Cross and Icon in 2008. What captured my attention in this reflection is his reference to the Celtic understanding of ‘thin places’. The Celts used this term to describe places where God’s presence is known with immediacy. Often they were mesmerizing places of great beauty or ruggedness such as the windswept isle of Iona, which is now part of Scotland, or the rocky peaks of Croagh Patrick, or the holy island of Lindisfarne. The ancient Celts had a saying about these places: “in most places heaven and earth are only three feet apart, yet in thin places that distance is even smaller.” In thin places the sacred touches the mundane, and we see clearly – we touch heaven.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator