Holiness is everywhere around us.
Have you ever read a book and one sentence sticks out like a beacon on a windswept, wintry hill? You can’t believe what your eyes just read. Your brain doesn’t feel big enough to absorb the words and their import. The skill of the writer blows you away.
It’s a perfect sentence, packed with such imagery and meaning you wish you’d written it yourself.
This happened to me last week while reading For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard. I picked it up for $7 in a second hand bookshop in Margaret River, a tourist town on the southwest coast of Australia. The sentence that blew me away was on page 138:
Ecstasy, I think, is a soul’s response to
the waves holiness makes as it nears.
I read it again to make sure I’d read it correctly the first time.
It contains three words open to multiple interpretations: ecstasy; soul; holiness. After reading a variety of definitions I settle for the following rephrasing of a perfect sentence, just to make sure I understand what she is saying:
Experiencing intense consciousness is a result of the non-physical aspect of myself detecting the approach of divinity.
My sentence doesn’t carry the same power Dillard’s did. Why did her sentence grab my attention?
I think it’s her imagery.
Her words create a picture of holiness silently approaching me on tiptoes, then hovering nearby, waiting for a response before it comes closer. It’s not sure it is welcome. Holiness waits. Usually for a very long time.
A Mindful Response to Holiness
According to Dillard, it’s not your busy, everyday mind that responds to holiness. It’s your soul, the non-physical aspect of your being. If your hectic physical and mental life doesn’t permit you to notice your soul’s response, then you miss out on things worth having in your life:
holiness; sanctity; divinity;
the peace that passes all understanding;
the big picture.
Holiness draws near you all the time. It’s making waves around you, waiting to be invited in.
It’s easy to imagine you’d experience the ecstasy of holiness if alone in a cave atop Mount Kailash in Tibet. But what if you’re in a traffic jam? Someone just jumped the very long checkout queue? You stepped in pooch pie at the park? A younger colleague got the exciting promotion?
That’s when you long for the ecstasy that holiness brings! And that’s when it seems further away than ever.
But it’s not. It’s hovering nearby.
How can you let it in?
The answer is to get out of your frenetic mind and tune into your calm soul – that non-physical aspect of yourself Dillard wrote about.
When you tune into your soul’s naturally welcoming response to holiness there’s no room in your life for impatience, anger, disgust or jealousy. But there’s plenty of room for patience, temperance, a sense of humour, and acceptance of another’s joy.
When you allow the intense consciousness of holiness into everyday happenings you find a way through them that enriches your life, like nothing else does.
One more time, in case you forgot:
Ecstasy, I think, is a soul’s response to the waves holiness makes as it nears.
It’s worth carving on the heights of Mt Rushmore.
Its inscription would befit a cathedral.
You don’t have to wait until you’re on a meditation retreat to tune into your soul’s response to holiness.
Holiness, I think, is everywhere around us. Waiting in the wings to be invited in.
With love, Marlane