I told my friend that I wanted to walk into the cathedral. We climbed the stone steps to the doorway…crowds with cameras surprised me there…somehow even here, people found that photos were more important than simply absorbing what they found there. Noon mass was going on and about a quarter of the wooden pews were filled. Here and there dark men with hats pulled down low and dirty jackets rumpled, dozed against the stiff wooden dividers at the end of the long seats.
Lauren and I approached the policeman who was checking the bags people were carrying for weapons and he waved us by. We quietly walked to the altars faced with rows of votive candles and a wood donation box for people who wished to light one as a prayer there. Surrounding the lighted art renderings were almost gray sculpted columns bracketing each as if to hold the story safe for the saints within. The priest at the front, speaking into the microphone told a tale, seemingly undisturbed by the tourists milling about the back with their cameras. His words reached me. “ The Great Spirit does two things for us. He empties us. And then, he fills us anew. There is great humility required here, as the ego self will only get in the way of this act.” I took these words in and as I drank of them, Lauren whispered to me, “did you hear that?”
“Yes,” I said.
We glanced at one another with a resonant knowing.
He spoke to some wisdom we innately carried and cared for. The faith inherent in humbling one’s self in order to empty and so to be filled, is central to the ceremony of vision fasting…and was a poignant part of my own ritual of pausing over the last year.
The vast chasm of space above the congregation, below and between the sculpted ceilings, seemed to be filled in it’s emptiness.
I pondered this paradox…of necessary emptying.
The day before as I had trudged the many blocks to Grand Central Station with my roller bag and purse, I felt an emptiness in the overflowing streets…people rushing by…so many with their heads down and eyes seeking something in their phones.
How many of us feel an emptiness of the fullness of our busy lives?
And who of us has been lucky enough to experience the fullness of empty space?
When I’ve had the courage to push through the lurking fears that can unassumingly attend empty space, a fullness rushes in.
Here I am humbled.