You yearn for a holy place because, in the time between waking unable to recall where you are, and drifting again into the half-sleep that is all you’ve known for the longest time, you stand in the darkness of your sterile hotel room, peering into a mirror to see that you are nothing like what you were supposed to be. You see in this darkness that you are shadow and vapor, that the pretty words in which you wrap yourself are no more you than the dirty glass is water.

You yearn for a holy place because the stench of your unholiness, your un-separateness, your common, petty guile and smallness, is sometimes so stark that you would sooner go without air than breathe it in. You yearn for a holy place even if you think you may be damned, because to be in it is to know, only fleetingly, only with darkened gaze, that there is something more than you and the things that are so very much like you.

Your heart and flesh cry out for a space that is more than just a meeting house for commemoration and remembrance and symbols. You are desperate for a space where the God who is a love you can scarcely think on waits to commune with your pale, quavering soul. A place that is holy because it embraces the great mystery of death begetting life,  of the tomb containing joy, of sorrow and hope intertwined in a world that would deny you your full portion of both.

You are desperate for the soft spilling light of sun pouring through stained glass, for the rustle of your clothes as you kneel, for the cross by which even someone like you might be healed, for the trembling prayer, the whispered blessing. You cry out for a place that will remain holy even after you have been in it. A place so holy that you pose no threat to it, so holy that it can embrace you in all your smallness and be no smaller itself, no less clean nor true nor solid.

You are so very thirsty. The darkest part of night has gathered about you. There is no water here. There has never been water here. Why did you think there would be?

This is what you think as you lie down in your lonely bed with parched throat, as you wait for daylight that you hope will be bright enough to make you forget, for a time, this yearning. Where is your holy place? Where will you find it in this strange city, and in the strange city to follow, and in all the days you wander from home, perhaps even within the walls of home, because you have mistaken trinkets and baubles for sacred things?

You could spend a lifetime finding the holy place, rediscovering the sacred things. You should. For now the rocks and trees are silent in the close-drawn dark, but something within you is crying out, because it knows you were fashioned for more than this. Will you listen, here in this darkness? Will you stumble onto the hallowed ground and drink deep?


  1. Beth

    Tony, must you make me *think* during finals?!

    Seriously, this is a lovely meditation and I appreciate it. It expresses what I often feel — that yearning for “something more” and knowing that, really, I won’t find it here. It makes me think of C.S. Lewis’s _Surprised by Joy_: we get little tastes of joy here so that we will know this isn’t “all there is” . . .

  2. karen

    Intriguing that you were “stumbling” on the road, …sojourning toward home, no? A sobering read. Thank you. Karen

  3. Charlie

    Beautifully written. Our hearts cry out for something pure and good, but we seem swept along in a tide of meaningless experiences, emptiness and shame.

  4. sjd

    Thomas Merton: The contemplative is not the man who has fiery visions of the cherubim carrying God in their imagined chariot, but simply he who has risked his mind in the desert beyond language and beyond ideas where God is encountered in the nakedness of pure trust, that is to say in the surrender of our own poverty and incompleteness in order no longer to clench our minds in a cramp upon themselves as if thinking made us exist….The contemplative has nothing to tell you except to reassure you and to say that if you dare to penetrate your own silence without fear into the solitude of your heart, and risk sharing that solitude with the lonely other who seeks God through you and with you, then you will truly recover the light and the capacity to understand what is beyond explanation because it is too close to be explained: it is the intimate union in the depths of your own heart, of God’s spirit, and your own secret inmost self, so that you and He are in truth One Spirit.

  5. Andrea

    The Holy Place is but a whisper away.

    I am packing to leave my children for 2 weeks to bring home our # 6 from China.
    I am making a copy of this to take with me.
    I like it.
    It demands focus.



  6. sjd

    al`Ghazali (11-12th c. Persian Sunni scholar): Having once surrendered blind belief, it is impossible to return to it, for the essence of such belief is to be unconscious of itself. As soon as this unconsciousness ceases it is shattered like glass whose fragments cannot be again reunited except by being put again into the furnace and refashioned.

  7. carl

    The psalmist tells us “Joy comes in the morning,” Joy is the morning, weather it is dark inside or out, or light inside or out.
    Thank you Tony

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