Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Place


This past week, I attended Christmas Eve service in one of the grandest cathedrals in the country, Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian, on Michigan Avenue, downtown. I sat in the rear balcony and stared across the expanse as thirteen-hundred worshipers celebrated the birth of a child and must admit to being brought to tears at the opening strains of Silent Night in that magnificent space, lit only and entirely by small candles held by each member of the congregation. I am not a religious man, but consider myself a spiritual one, and I was moved by the wonder of the place.

On a similar night, thirteen years before, I sat in a small brick Episcopal church in old Raleigh. No pomp or grandeur, the aging congregation outnumbered by the modest choir. The pain of great loss still weighed heavy on my heart. From the humble pulpit a simple holiday message, the birth of new hope, was offered into the tiny, solemn space and I was deeply soothed by the quiet peace I felt there.

To close each year, I step gently into the waters of a particular gorge as the fog lifts and the sun begins to creep over the edge of the wide ravine behind me, illuminating the far rock wall in golden splendor. My heart, already enlivened by the solitary hike in, leaps from my body and soars into the pine rafters of that Nature’s sanctuary. Eyes closed, my face to the heavens, I soak in the majesty of our Mother’s temple and send skyward heartfelt prayers of thanks for the year past and hopes for the coming to whoever might be listening. The place, in return, fills me with joy.

Here’s hoping that you find your place - of wonder, of peace, of joy - in the coming new year. May it sooth your pains and give you life and happiness unbounded.

Thank you for reading.

22 comments:

todd tanner said...

Amen, brother.

Mike Sepelak said...

And hallelujah, Todd.

Jeff Holberg said...

Beautiful brother, absolutely beautiful

Kirk Werner said...

I'm glad I read this. As close as I can tell, I am pretty well at peace with myself and slightly less at peace with the world around me (us). It seems more and more that the world around me (us) is less and less at peace and since there's not a lot I (we) can do about that, I'm going to heed your words. Probably have a fishing pole in hand, too. Peace, brother.

Sandy Harris III said...

I'm discovering we have more in common with each new blog you post......

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks, Jeff. I'm glad that this resonates with you. Happy New Year, my friend.

Mike Sepelak said...

Kirk, I couldn't agree more. You and I can't change the world, but we can do what we can to tidy up that which is close. And there's nothing closer than our own disposition. So we breath deep, calm ourselves, and find the best peace we can as the storm swirls around us.

Perhaps if everyone did...

Always a joy to hear from you, Sir Ranger. Enjoy the upcoming year.

Mike Sepelak said...

May those discoveries continue, Sandy! Thanks for saying hello. I truly appreciate it.

Ken G said...

Chicago neighborhoods are filled with beautiful churches with wonderful personal histories. Many little mini cathedrals. The one you went to was always one of my favorites.

I have my Church of the Holy Fish now, services held every Sunday on flowing water somewhere. Spectacular places indeed.

And, of course, I can't help myself...

It's Michigan AVENUE...

Have a Happy New Year Mike.

Mike Sepelak said...

Ah, yes. Avenue. I knew what I wrote didn't sound quite right, but I figured it was just my overall suckiness. Michigan Avenue. The Miracle Mile. Shopping mecca. Honestly, a mess.

I'll happily worship at the Church of the Holy Fish, my Illinois friend. Maybe next year we can share a pew once again.

Jason Tucker said...

Beautifully said sir. Spirituality is where you find it.

Mike Sepelak said...

It is indeed, Jason. Where you find it and where you create it. Hope you find your share this year. Cheers!

Chris said...

Here's to you and the new year, Mike. It promises to be an interesting year in 2016.

Mike Sepelak said...

It will, no doubt, be interesting, Chris. In many ways, I expect. Hope yours is interesting in all the right ways. Thanks for saying hello!

CathyB said...

Special sacred spaces service our souls, Mike. But I see you knew that already. :)

Happiness and health to you and Mary in the new year.

Mike Sepelak said...

And the very best to you and Tom, Cathy! Try to stay dry and we must get back together this year. It's been way too long.

Justin Carfagnini said...

Beautifully written, Mike. Hope 2016 is good to you!

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks Justin. I hope it's your year too.

Howard Levett said...

Did someone mention Michigan Avenue? I was born somewhere near there but all I have is faint memories. Thanks for the inspiring words Mike. Peace and love in 2016.

Mike Sepelak said...

Back at ya, Howard. Peace and love. A little sex and rock-and-roll wouldn't hurt either. Whatever, let's put 2015 behind us and have a better year ahead. You, at least, deserve it.

FlyFishSpartacus said...

This is a beautifully captured moment Mike. I've been following your blog for awhile but haven't reached out- you know, kind of like most fish react to my flies. I grew up just outside Chicago prior to moving to Raleigh, and know Michigan Ave. and that church rather well. I'm not partial to organized religion myself but I do see the beauty in those old cathedrals filled with angelic voices. Brought back good memories, thank you for that.

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks for saying hello, Spartacus! Glad that this piece stirred some good memories. Such feedback is what makes keeping a blog worthwhile. Cheers!