I've just started reading a new book on the writings of the Desert Fathers, those mysterious men and women who went out into the Egyptian wilderness to encounter God. One of the key places of encounter for them was their 'cell'. The simple room where they spent most of their days.
'The Desert Fathers taught "sit in your cell and it will teach you everything." The point was that unless a man could find God here, in this one place, his cell, he would not find him by going somewhere else. But they had no illusions about what it meant to stay in the cell: it meant to stay there in mind as well as body. To stay there in body, but to think about the outside world, was already to have left it.'
That paragraph stayed with me today. It followed me into the car, and into the office. It sat in my mind in the grocery store and in the movie theater. In each venue the simple question was 'How can I find God here?'
I know God is Omnipotent - everywhere, filling time and space, closer than the air I breathe, but certain places seem 'fuller' than others. The headland above the beach in Swanage, Dorset. The stillness of the Jesus Chapel in Norwich Cathedral for example. These are places of 'encounter' for me. Places of my past where I felt a special connection to the Divine...
...but that connection does not give me the authority to label some places as Holy and others as not. The Atheist wrote 'God is nowhere' but given a single space it becomes 'God is now here'. The desert fathers teach me the importance of that solitary space.
I do not have the luxury of sitting in a solitary space waiting to encounter God - there is work to be done, boardgames to play, recipes to try, friends to contact. But the Divine Mystery is that I carry that solitary space within me, I am a dwelling place of the Divine. God is wherever I am.
I give my theological assent to that statement, but it is not my lived experience.
I wonder if it could be?
May we all find our solitary space this week.