The Importance of Being in a Place

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In an early comedy sketch show on the radio, much loved by Metropolitan Kallistos, one of the characters Seagoon finding another character Eccles in a coal cellar asks: “What are you doing here?” Eccles replies “Everybody’s gotta be somewhere!” Eccles portrayed as a rather silly youth, has a special talent for taking things he hears literally, but in so doing often shows a profound insight.

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From a slightly later vintage, some may remember Robin’s song from the T.V. Muppet Show. In innocent reflection he sings:”
Halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit.
There isn’t any other stair quite like it.
I’m not at the bottom, I’m not at the top.
So this is the stair where I always stop.

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The original version of “King Lear” (1605), William Shakespeare contains the line: “Jesters do oft prove prophets”; from where we gain the expression ”many a true word is spoken in jest.” The fool, whilst seen to be a jester, has his place in the plot, pointing to a truth which the “wise in their own eyes” fail to see. (Isaiah 5:21)

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A hermit was once asked by a visitor “What do you do?” The hermit answered ”I live here!” The old English words “dwell” and “abide” for “live “conveys the sense of remaining fully in a state of stability. An embryo dwells in the mother’s womb, growing and being nourished in the darkness until the time of birth.
On meeting someone for the first time we often ask” What do you do?” as if someone is defined by their job or status! Our Lord did not judge people by what they did but he had empathy with who they were and had insight into the potential of what they could become. We are not “Human doings “we are “Human Beings.”

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In order to “be,” to be fully in the present moment, to be fully alive, fully aware, we need to have stability of place. Constant movement is not good for the spirit. With too much movement we become like children who spin round and round and when they stop they are dizzy and fall over. Much could be said about the work/ life balance in today’s society but sufficient to say that we need to be aware of the limits and integrity of our mind, body, spirit and the heart.

 

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Place is the dimension of revelation. God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, Christ revealed His Divinity on Mount Tabor, St John received the Revelation of the Apocalypsis in the Cave on Patmos. From the beginning God has given us a place to be: Genesis 2:15 ” Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. “The place where we live is both the place of our daily routine and our spiritual life. Our daily duties are not separate from our spiritual life. Prayer is not separate from work. Our Icon Corner is the Church in the home and becomes the centre of our being in that place.

 

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The saints were made holy in their cells, in caves, on islands, in trees, on platforms in the sky, in their places where God broke into their lives. One senses the holiness of places that are infused with prayer and built by ascesis. Go to the cave of St John in Prislop Monastery in Romania, visit the underground cell of St Gerasimos on Kefalonia, row across Derwentwater to St Herbert’s Island- you will find the grace of God.

 

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Even when their bodies are separated from the souls, the grace remains in both. Their soul is apprehended invisibly. St John of Damascus says that “the holy relics of the saints, their icons, their graves, are full of grace which their souls and bodies had whilst on earth.” Since men and women are composed of soul and body, both need theosis, both need a place to be. Even when their bones have disappeared the place where they lived has become holy-sanctified- a place of refreshment for our spirit.

 

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Like Eccles we have to be somewhere- but not anywhere! If we are in the wrong place then we will have no peace until we find the right place. God has given each of us a place to be.
Fr. Jonathan

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