Holy of Holies

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Luke 21:5-6   Proper 28 year C  http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

Reflecting upon Jesus prediction of the destruction of the Second Temple I could not help but think of the recent fire at Virginia Seminary, the burning of Holy Cross’s monastery at Mount Calvary, and even the upcoming deconsecration of the sisters’ chapel at St. Hilda’s House as they prepare to move to the new convent.  While grieving for and about these and other real situations, a terribly inappropriate but insistant image came into my strange mind: the moment the Grinch pauses to hear the moaning of the Whos in Whoville after he has stolen everything related to the village Christmas celebration.

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply must hear!” So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low. Then it started to grow… But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry! It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY! He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes! Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise! Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, Was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!*

Altarpiece, Erhart, 1493-4, Benedictine Abbey Church, Blaubeuren

I don’t mean to trivialize the profound grief and dislocation after the destruction of a sacred space. Everything depends upon our sanctuaries. The sense of increments of holiness from narthex to nave to crossing to choir to the holy of holies, teaches us to approach the sacred first with reverence, passion, and finally awe. And once we partake of (literally, in a Eucharist) the Divine into our own flesh, we’re sent out from the sacred space to bring the qualities of the Deity into a suffering world.

We need sanctuaries to enter into mystery. How else would we come to learn that the holy of holies is all of life, each other, all of earth? But once we’re sent out from the Holy of Holies into the … well, greater Holy of Holies, we bear the sanctuary “not made with human hands” within us.

Even the greatest of buildings will fall someday. But our prayers, which seem so ephemeral now, endure.

*How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

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5 Responses to “Holy of Holies”

  1. Tony Burkart Says:

    Have you read Flannery O’Conner’s short story, “Revelation” in her anthology,
    “All Things That Rise Must Converge”?

  2. ammaguthrie Says:

    No, but I just pulled it down from the shelf and I will.

  3. claire Says:

    I am so happy to be able to come back here, a Holy of Holies as well 🙂 and feel the Spirit dancing through.

    Thank you!

    PS: I will have to look for FO’C’s anthology 🙂

  4. ammaguthrie Says:

    “They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away. …” – Revelation, Flannery O’Connor

  5. elizabeth leborgne Says:

    I so agree with your choice of literature. The grinch that stole christmas was SO appropriate and brought your point home so well. I have often had the same sort of “strange” thoughts in the face of disaster or disastrous situations. You really must see the film I told you of about the Tiberhine monks in Algeria. They understood too what the people in whoville understood

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