The Sacred Spaces

on 19 October 2009

When I got back to NC, my mom asked me what my favorite thing was that I had done while in New York.

I thought for a minute and replied with the Public Library and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Which surprised even me because I hadn't planned to see either of them.

Thursday morning came. Chris got up too early, headed down and was the first one at early registration. He registered and came back up stairs to hang out with me while I pondered and planned. We watched the news and chatted sleepily--something we never get to do and therefore a novelty. He finally headed back downstairs for breakfast and his first class and I headed for a hot shower and my Search for Bagels.

My plan was just to wander until I found bagels and then to head in the general direction of the Public Library. I had been told, when we joined the group for drinks the night before (we were the only ones drinking water), that the Public Library was indeed impressive as was St. Patrick's Cathedral and they were relatively close and FREE so I thought I would check them out.

I found the Bagel Bar. And a choir of angels started to sing. Their bagels were full and soft and chewy and once toasted they achieved a perfectly crunchy crust. I ordered 2 whole wheat ones, both toasted but only one with cream cheese. I picked up a diet coke, double-checked the map and off I walked. I knew that Bryant Park was adjacent to the library so I had intended to settle myself there in order to fully appreciate my bagels.

I found Bryant Park with no problem at all. I found a quiet seat with a table on a tree-lined walk and a view of 2 men playing chess and a couple of cops eating donuts. I pulled out my Isaac Babel and my bagels and settled down for breakfast. The story I just happened to be on was "Public Library" which I thought fitting. I read and I ate and I people-watched and I listened to the sounds of the city and the people around me.

I sent Chris a text message that said, "Do two bagels and a diet coke consumed in Bryant Park make for a perfect breakfast? Why yes, I think they do." He got a chuckle out of that, but I'm pretty sure he was jealous.

The Library didn't open until 10am and while I was waiting a woman (a NATIVE) walked up and asked me for directions. I hesitated for a minute, not sure if she was serious but then shrugged and gave her directions and then laughed after she was gone.

Once the library opened, I headed in. There was the habitual security line with the obligatory bag search and then up up up the long staircase and along the hallway and then...then...

The main reading room.


There's a reason the light is golden and the ceiling is painted with clouds like the heavens.


Because this is what Heaven looks like. Books line the walls, long and wide tables with soft lighting. Plenty of space to spread out. The chair wrap around your back so you can sit up or slouch comfortably. I settled down and read two more stories before getting up to wander.

The New York Public Library is a library like European libraries where the public doesn't actually have ACCESS to the Books. But they do have an ample staff of qualified librarians who will obtain the books you want and bring them to you at your request. I didn't request anything, I had hoped to wander the Slavic section, but instead contented myself with the reading room and in my wanderings, who did I happen to find?

Jane Austen.

And?

Charles Dickens.

I swear. It's like I have some kind of programming that leads me to them where e'er I may wander.

I found another hall that had some lovely paintings of authors, but then realized that I was starting to run short on time, so I headed down to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Now. I'm not Catholic. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I am someone who can appreciate a wide variety of sacred spaces. I actually find it quite thought provoking to visit the sacred spaces of other religions and cultures...it says A LOT about the people who build them and worship there.

I've visited a variety of cathedrals before, but not for quite some time. It was awe-inspiring to be in one again.

The space itself is amazing. It's HUGE. With stained-glass windows all around. They were getting ready for 12 o'clock mass so the organist was playing and there were Catholics praying in various languages all around me. I sat down in the middle and said a quiet prayer for my Boy, my Husband, my family.

And I thought about that wonderful story from Elijah:

He's hiding, fearing for his life, and he begins to despair and as he prays he says, "I, even I only, am left; they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice." (1 Kings 19: 11-12)

I was thinking of how we build the grand, spacious, beautiful, intimidating spaces in which to worship God. And yet. He's not in those Grand, Expansive, Elaborate spaces. He is in the still, small voice. He's in our Homes. He's in our families. He's in the quiet (well, mostly quiet), comfortable, cozy, simple spaces where we live our daily lives. If we let Him in.

I got up quietly and slipped out.

2 comments:

Whimsy said...

This is wonderful and sweet. I would have liked to join you for this adventure. We could have oooh'ed and awwww'ed together, though sometimes it's the doing of these things by ourselves that makes it so special.

Bird said...

This was so interesting to me. Though I've been to NYC close to 10 times as an adult, I dont' think I've ever been to either of these places. I do love a good library reading rooom, where you just want to sit in a chair and absorb the greatness in the room. Ahhh.