9. Finding space within

Sacred Spaces 9: SACRED SPACES

Article 6 in our series was written about the sea, which also speaks to me about God.  She said, "When you stand at the sea's edge look up to the horizon. God is with you, you are with God in his space".

 

There have been many interesting, informative articles about "places" where people have found the sacred, but it seems to me that they have been about "place”, not "space", and implicitly about the transcendence of God.  The Oxford Dictionary defines “transcendent” (of God) as existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.  In other words - "God out there".  Conversely, “immanent” is defined as existing or operating within (of God), permanently pervading the universe, in other words - "God within".

 

So, it seems to me, bearing in mind that we are told in Genesis (Ch 1, v 26,27) that man is made in the image of God, that it is possible that there may be a "Sacred Space" within oneself, within the human psyche if one makes room for it.  That yearning for God which is in the human heart, and which nothing else can satisfy was well known to the Psalmists.  So at the beginning of Psalm 42 we have, “As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God”.  And in Psalm 46 v10 “Be still and know that I am God”.  Also from St Augustine, "You have made us for yourself, and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in You''. (1)  See also Psalm 63 and there are others voicing similar thoughts.

 

If this is the case then how can one nurture and sustain this sacred space so that it does not wither and die?  Our twenty first century world is very different from that of the Psalmist and the mediaeval mystic, but God remains the same, and prayer remains the same, and, even though we are bombarded by electronic information and social media this can be a useful resource enabling us to find like-minded people. (2)  Apart from the support and encouragement of one’s local church community in worship and prayer and Bible study, (3) I am sustained by being a Tertiary of the Order of the Holy Paraclete (OHP) whose Mother house is at Whitby. (4)

 

Most religious orders have Tertiaries or Oblates who follow a rule of life similar, but not the same as, that of the nuns and monks.  Perhaps the most well-known is that of the Franciscans whose Tertiary Order began in the thirteenth century where there was a need to accept into the Order secular people who for one reason or another were not able to become monks or nuns.  The Tertiary order of OHP celebrates its seventieth anniversary this year and is made up of about one hundred and fifty men and women from all walks of life, lay and ordained, who are in Communion with the Anglican Church. 

 

It was founded in 1948 on St. Peter’s day by Dr. Charlotte Houlton who after a lifetime working in India felt called to devote herself more deeply to a life of Prayer and, having spent two years at Whitby, founded the Tertiary Order.  I have been a Tertiary for nearly twenty-nine years, and we are united by our Rule of Life based on that of the Sisters who commit themselves to a Rule of Life and Prayer inspired by St. Benedict.  We follow a similar pattern of admission becoming Postulants, Novices and Full Members.  Unlike the sisters we do not make Life Vows but Promises which we renew every three years, although the intention is to be a lifelong Tertiary. 

 

Each Tertiary draws up a personal Rule, according to needs, occupations and pattern of life but the principal concepts remain the same and are common to all.  As we renew our promises we consider and revise our own Rule which changes over time as our lives change.  We are very lucky in York to have two OHP Sisters living and working here and to be able to meet regularly at their house, and the Mother house, at Whitby, is not too far away.  There is a strong, supportive bond between Tertiaries, and, even though we may meet infrequently, the underlying commitment of our way of life upholds our Christian ministry wherever we live.

 

OHP has Tertiaries in New Zealand, Canada and Sweden and a number in South Africa and Ghana where OHP Sisters did a lot of work last century, and where, Sr. Aba, a very well qualified ophthalmic nurse runs an eye clinic.

 

In her wise commentary on the TOHP Rule, Sr. Rosa writes: “It is important to recognize that no-one has to be a Tertiary.  To be a baptized Christian is to be a member of Christ, a Child of God and an inheritor of the Kingdom.

 

These are God’s free gifts to all Christians and no-one can add to them or take away from them”.  So I am sure there are other equally valid ways to keep that “sacred space” within us alive, holy and vibrant. 

 

Anne Wright

 

Sources:-

(1)  Prayer and Contemplation. Robert Llewelyn (p32)

(2)  www.quietspaces.org.uk

(3)  Bible Reading Fellowship. www.brf.org.uk

(4)  www.ohppriorywhitby.org.uk     

 

Post Communion Collect, Trinity 3

O God whose beauty is beyond our imagining and whose power we cannot comprehend: show us your glory as far as we can grasp it and shield us from knowing more than we can bear until we may look upon you without fear through Jesus Christ our Saviour, Amen

 

 


Sacred Spaces
Webpage icon 10. The Chapel at Nether Springs
Webpage icon 8. Walsingham
Webpage icon 6. Water and the sea
Webpage icon 5. The 'Ninian Triangle'
Webpage icon 4. 'Go up to Jerusalem'
Webpage icon 3: Oberammergau
Webpage icon 2. Bradwell
Webpage icon 1. What is a Sacred Space?