Seven is a magic number in many ways. In this book, 'Sacred Spaces: Stations on a Celtic Way', the author Margaret Silf walks the reader through seven traditional sacred spaces:
- the infinite knot
- the Celtic cross
- groves and springs
- thresholds and crossing places
Each of these spaces has a unique spiritual dimension in various Celtic ways of thinking and being. Silf devotes a chapter to each, reflecting on ways that this Celtic understanding can shed deeper meaning on our own lives. Drawing from scripture, Celtic legend and lore, and simple storytelling, Silf helps us chart our own journey through these sacred spaces.
This book is visually stunning as well as interesting to read, which helps the reader draw upon other senses as well as the imagination in pursuing this kind of sacredness. 'With our minds we know our lives are a mass of complication. If you think back to yesterday, or forward to tomorrow, you will surely become aware of a whole catalogue of problems, dilemmas, choices and compromises, beaten into some kind of shape on the anvil of your circumstances. A far cry from the perfect balance of the infinite knot. Yet in your deeper reaches there are whispers of simplicity, harmony, a joining of opposites, a reconciliation of irreconcilables.'
Silf uses personal reflections from her own life (a person who works at home, a person who has been trained by Jesuits in prayer and spiritual direction, a married person, etc.) to illustrate how these connections can be made for those of us in 'real life' situations. So often spirituality seems so disconnected from ordinary daily practice, and so difficult to incorporate into day-to-day activity, as if it is only possible to have 'spirituality' when the rest of life is done, or put on hold. Celtic practices strive to recognise the spiritual dimension in all that we do, and Silf's incorporation of sacred spaces can turn everyday activities as simple as walking through a doorway into a connection with the sacred.
Silf explains that Celtic spirituality holds thresholds and crossings in high regard. Thresholds are doorways -- this can be symbolic of any transition, major or minor, in our lives. A new job, a new child, a new relationship, a departing by moving or death -- all of these are thresholds we cross. We can remember each time we open the door to home of the sacredness of where we are, where we've come from, and who we've journeyed with. A lot in a small symbol, if we would but pay attention.
Other images -- hilltops (how often did prophets in scripture of various religions go to mountaintops or hilltops for a stronger connection with the divine?), the cross (strong symbolism for Christians, surely, but who else uses the cross, and in what ways?), wells and springs (pools of possibility, Silf calls them) -- all these images and more yield treasure to they who seek it. 'In every moment that we live and breathe, we are growing into it, dreaming and real-ising our own part in the Dream of all creation, reaching out to each new horizon along the Way that leads us Home.'