How can I escape your Spirit? Or flee your Presence? If I ascend to the heavens, You are there: if I make my bed with the dead, behold, You are there, too! If I fly on the morning’s wings, and find the ends of the sea, You will guide me and your right hand will cradle me. If I were to say, “if only the darkness could cover me, and the light about me could be like the night.”—even the darkness would not hide me from You. For dark and light are the same to You! (Psalm 139: 7-12)
This season is special in that within the span of 18 days, Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all celebrating their high Holy Days. Each of these Holy Days, although celebrated separately, are so closely knit because they are festivals of redemption, life and light. Through the Gospels of the New Testament, we as Christians have heard and remembered the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, proclaiming God’s saving power among the peoples of the earth. Judaism, in its feast of the Passover, retold the salvation history of the Hebrews in their liberation from oppressive slavery of Egypt and celebrated in symbols and actions the foretaste of God’s saving activity amongst his people. Muslims around the world are celebrating a whole month when they study the Quran, abstain from earthly pleasures through fasting, and pray to be closer to God, remembering the story of how the Quran was revealed to Muhammed.
The enduring paradox of religion is the theme of death and resurrection, whether it is lived out in the action of God through an individual or for a group of people. Faith promises happiness when suffering is given equal footing with joy. Many parts of life: work, family life, marriage, birth, sickness, accidents, loss and even death, lead us to a deeper understanding of our place within the greater scheme of things. Light or darkness. Life or death. These dualisms bring about a spiritual awakening within us if we will make the time and space for them to teach us and if we will pay attention to God’s rhythms within and around us.
The Psalmist who wrote these words of praise discovered this paradox and the imminence of transcendence of God within the experiences of living. As these spring days grow longer, as the sun’s arch stretches over us, as the ground warms, and the crocus, daffodils, and tulips rise up from their winter slumber raising their petals in sprays of color, I am reminded, in wonder, about the simple rituals of rejuvenation. Such wonderment comes through nature and through the rituals of the faithful all over the world.
Let yourself take time to search for sacred space in your life. Let your darkness be enlightened. We have gone through a whole year of shade, dust, dimness and dark. Find a beautiful public garden, a museum gallery where you can be alone, perhaps the stacks of a library, the bright shade of the old grove of trees, the hush of a quiet chapel where you might light a candle, or even an outdoor café where you are comfortable and safely seated basking in the sunshine. Can you realize the boundless treasure of spiritual replenishment and renewal?
Joseph Campbell wrote and reminded us: “Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need.” Whatever your tradition, take time to enjoy God’s saving stories, remembering how God has over the millennia acted to save his people throughout the whole world. Blessings during these seasons of salvation!