In one of my posts, several months back, I explained the spiritual belief in the ‘thin line’, a pre-Christian spirituality in Ireland which later became part of Christian Celtic spirituality. It is widely venerated in the British Isles today and in much of the world.
I thought of the ‘thin line’ the other day while watching the arduous search and rescue among the destructive remains of the Florida apartment which collapsed last week. The ‘thin line’ is a “location or moment in which our sense of the Sacred is more pronounced, where the space between the transcendent and the commonplace is exceptionally narrow” (Lacy Clark Ellman, asacredjourney.net). Other definitions say it is the place or moment where heaven folds into Earth. It is a totally ineffable experience.
Picture yourself standing on a crevice overlooking the Grand Canyon and you are suddenly, spiritually, lifted to another plane, a transcendent place, and you are speechless. The power of the beauty of the place leads you through the ‘thin line’ and you are aware of the presence of Someone loving you and the universe immeasurably. You have no need to speak but your heart is praying, without you even realizing it.
When I visited the attic where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding, I was struck silent looking at Anne’s pictures of movie stars on her wall, her little notebook on a small table. I could hear the family’s hushed noises, but most of all, I could feel the terror in the walls and floors and I could hear the nervous clatter of their feet as they descended the steps to the waiting train. Oddly enough, there were many tourists with me that day, but none of us spoke. We walked around, eyes fixed on one or more items that told this young girl’s story. We were in a Sacred place; we were crossing the ‘thin line’. We were praying without words.
I thought of all this when I watched television reporter, Wolf Blitzer interview a young man whose grandmother most likely had perished in the collapse of the apartment building. The young man had walked around the periphery of the debris almost immediately after the collapse. No yellow protective tapes had yet been put up. As he walked, he noticed a card among the ashes and concrete. Curiously, he picked it up. It was a birthday card his grandmother had received only days before the tragedy. Along with it were two pictures in excellent condition. The card had signatures of close friends and the pictures were of his grandmother and her son and her husband. Everything was smudged with dust and dirt, but not destroyed. Of all the tons of concrete, mortar, beams, glass, and debris, rising from the dust and smoke and water, rising from the torturous deaths of over one hundred victims, this card and these photos beckoned the young man to pick them up. It was his ‘thin line’. He said he knew his grandmother wanted him to pick up the mementos; he knew she was saying, “I’m fine. All is well.” She was a woman of deep religious faith said her grandson, and she was still teaching us to believe. She had lifted his spirits.
The young man in this story had experienced the ‘thin line’ as a moment among chaos and tragedy. He slipped through that line and touched his grandmother. It was a Sacred moment as the definition of ‘thin line’ suggests. He said he could not speak; he held the pictures and cried.
Have you ever had a moment like this? It could have been a rapturous, beautiful, stunning moment when you were taken, absorbed, almost helpless in the presence of Love through beauty. It could also have been a tragic moment when you were hurt, anxious, but suddenly aware of the reassurance of overwhelming Love. The ‘thin line’ might become a testimonial to the Sacred like the Twin Tower Memorial even though it was the result of evil. What counts is the moment, the breathless, wordless moment of prayer when you discover something Sacred that God has sent you to reassure you of Love and hold you in a wordless prayer.
Let us hold the people and families suffering from the Surfside tragedy. In the quiet of your contemplative prayer, pray for all who are working in search and rescue and all the suffering families.
Recall in your prayer, the times you may have had an experience of the ‘thin line.’ Thank God for those experiences and include them in a journal meditation.
God bless all of you, including my Anonymous Angels, and may you find peace in your prayer life and, always, much joy.