The Celts believed that heaven and earth were only three feet apart; they also had a belief in “Thin Places”, places where the distance was even closer. Places which were awash with the presence of G-d. Places which intensified and overwhelmed with an awareness of the glory and presence of G-d. For myself I have a reference point of going to spend time alone with G-d on the mountains and beaches of N.Wales. I wasn’t aware of this concept at the time, all I knew was I felt a drawing to these places of rugged beauty, and a greater sense of G-d when I was alone in these places. Now with hindsight I can see the principle of pilgrimage to these “thin places” at play. Within days of my salvation, I longed to spend time in nature, seeking G-d and seeing Him reflected through His creation. There were times when a major decision was required in my life, and the mountains and beaches were where I sought G-d’s response.
At the time I didn’t think much of this aspect of my faith, its only after a period of city living I have missed this aspect of prayer and worship. And in rediscovering my Celtic roots I have realized it has been a vital part of many peoples experience of G-d for centuries. We live in increasingly fractured times, losing sight of connectedness to each other and to creation. To be alone in the immensity of creation, lost perspectives can be found. Oftentimes we lose sight of who we are and where we are going and time spent just being, free from expectation, brings about a sense of re-centering spiritually. We live lives filled with supposition, expectation and agenda, these pull us further and further away from an awareness of His presence.
The act of separating from the flows and eddies of our lives to meet with Him is one that is lacking in these times. The act of intentionally journeying to meet G-d is one rich in layer and meaning, and an act which draws us back to our center. The act of pilgrimage has often been viewed as catholic and limited to specific sites, such as significant sites in Jesus’ life. However this view misses the beauty and simplicity of the true heart of pilgrimage, the desire and act of spending time alone with G-d. A pilgrimage is a journey with spiritual and moral significance, the steps we take minute to minute are ones can become acts of worship and pilgrimage. Just as we physically journey from one place to another seeking a greater awareness of G-d, so we can spiritually become pilgrims. Our intentional acts of community and our stewardship of creation are acts of pilgrimage; we set out from a place of familiarity (at G-d’s leading!) and journey to a place of new found intimacy. Seeking the “Thin Places” in our lives and relationships, places where connections are made and amazing flows occur. Places in which G-d through His Son and Spirit, causes his Glory to be made manifest.
I want to lay a little challenge down, embark on your own personal act of pilgrimage this month, set aside some time and give it to G-d, take a physical journey to a place in which you experience a greater awareness of His presence ( remember a piece of poetry, music or place can be a thin place..) and ask G-d to reveal His glory in your life, ask for an increased awareness of the “Thin Places” in your life, may He mercifully reveal the Spirit filled connections within your life. May this increased awareness embolden you to a greater love for the Lord and His creation, and may your interaction with His creation further deepen your relationship with Him.
“Stand still for a time, drink in His beauty, hear His voice in the sounds of His creation.
Almighty Creator, it is you who have made the land and the sea…
All your wonders, O true Lord!
The Father created the world by a miracle;
It is difficult to express its measure.
Letters cannot contain it, letters cannot contain it.”
-Studies by Sir Ifor Williams, ed. Rachel Bromwich, The Beginnings of Welsh Poetry
(Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1980) 102.
(Editor’s Note: Tell us about your experiences of seeking the LORD in pilgrimage and ‘thin places’ in the comments below.)