Sunday, 9 September 2018

I write from Whitby, that ancient holy site, although a modern flat in the town is not quite the picture which one normally associates with 'ancient holy site'. Okay, I can see the abbey on the east cliff, and its presence dominates the town, but today the picturesque, the tourist, the short summer season take precedence. It takes great leaps of imagination to go back to a small community, facing north, isolated by geography, producing a powerhouse of prayer and holiness.

But holy sites, even those long abandoned, continue to draw people. We recognise 'thin places' where heaven, God, the numinous, come closer to us. Sanctified by use, validated by recognition, we go to them for what we lack in life, what we seek even when we cannot name it. Cathedrals have that 'draw', but so do many other places; I think of a holy well in suburban Paphos, Cyprus, adorned with votive offerings which speak of the pain of many hearts and prayers.

My own list of places which have drawn me would include Compostela, Durham, Chichester. And smaller, more local but equally potent locales- Lastingham, St. Gregory's minster. They draw me, tell me to 'keep on keeping on'; to continue to be a pilgrim, where both journey and destination are vital to me being fully human.  

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