I had heard of it before, views where earth meets sky at every degree of 360, but I think I had never seen it. It never occurred to me that mountains, hills, and forests, block your view. I always thought they were the view. It never occurred to me that sky could be seen by looking straight ahead. Pittsburgh was all mountains and valleys, everywhere. To see the sky, we had to look up. Hence, “the dome”.
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
We see, breathe, take flight, and lie down at night, in the context of the dome. We are ever and always, sleeping or waking, present to and stirring through the dome, while never actually seeing it. The dome is as ethereal as the element we call Air, the element that breathes, sways, inspires, fills, moves, lifts and gives us life. Air is the element that is seen only by what it animates, like the hair on your arm, the leaves on a tree, or Adam, when Adam became a living being. We can see the air by how it takes a shape, in a balloon, or in a lung. We can smell it, by its lifting of a scent and wafting it our way, or we can hear it by its rapid vibration with humming bird wing or violin quartet. We feel it on our skin when someone whispers in our ear. Always, its effects, rather than the thing itself. Dust mites, in a shaft of light, float. Such is God when we find God in the elements of creation, and it makes us call Air: Holy Spirit.
Air is every moment, our holy necessity. God, from one breath to the next without thought, or intent, the dynamic of inhale and exhale, a sort of Holy Spirit resting sustaining presence. God is the effervescence in a toast, a sort of Holy Spirit joy. God, the encapsulated fullness of a child’s bubble blowing, or the lift of a dragon fly wing, a sort of Holy Spirit playing. God is the saying of our names out loud when we are brought into being, a sort of Holy Spirit animation. We gasp for air in our birthing and in our dying. This gasp for God . . . this cry for Holy Spirit. This subconscious want for God. This constant rest in Holy presence; this laughter, this joy, this play and our coming to life, with Holy Spirit.
The poet who penned Psalm 104 says that God wears light as a cloak, and stretches out the sky, for his tent. If we can see sky, then we know we are in God’s tent, and we are at home, and God is at hand. Vistas and broad expanse make me breathless with Holy Presence and elated about the ridiculous blatancy of God’s omniscience. From now on, whenever I engage my Celtic practice of praying the sky, I will think of that Holy vastness, and me, inside of it. Me, inside the Holy Dome.
We were having lunch at Princi Italia in Midtown on Tuesday.
The waitress refilled my water glass and overheard me say to Benno,
“the little square cards we have that say: ‘bring your dog to church’”. She turned to walk off with her water pitcher, then turned back to offer enthusiastically, “If I could bring my dog to church, I’d go to church!”
Naturally, I dove in with directions to Highpoint and a hearty invitation. And then we talked a bunch about dogs. I risked suggesting to her what I suggested to y’all on Pentecost, about how dogs are a part of creation that make us know what the Holy Spirit is like.
We tend to think we’re in the dark about the Holy Spirit.
~Jesus? Yes. We know him. Something like friend or fellow.
~God? Yes. The Grandfatherly creator type. Maybe with some lightning bolts thrown in.
~the Holy Spirit? Not so much. Strangely other.
Except for this living with dog-love, because
they make us know about this Holy Spirit thing. . .
they make us know. . .
that we are loved unconditionally.
And like the Holy Spirit they incarnate joy. (yes – Joy is a fruit of the Spirit)
Sometimes they make a mess of things.
And sometimes they chew.
They invite you to play with a universal sign that even cats understand (read proverbs 8 if you wanna see about the Holy Spirit at play!)
They walk in devotion, watch with intent, companion us in all things no matter what the things.
They do not abandon.
Like the Holy Spirit they are wild creatures, wholly different from us, and yet, we learn a shared language and develop a mutual trust.
They want our attention and live for our affection. They follow us around.
They snug up as close to us as we will allow.
They are intuitively sensitive to our emotional terrain. And. . . well, you get the idea. . . I digress!
I did not say all of that to the waitress!
Suffice it to say, that sacramentally speaking, dogs are an “Outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual truth”.
But at the mention of our dog-life as a way to understand the Holy Spirit, her eyes got big and she was all over it! Knowingly. More stories rolled out.
One of her Holy Spirit stories was about how her dog is her intuitive radar about another person’s character and trustworthiness, because of how her dog may or may not warm up to them, or look askance, or growl, or wag.
And how that makes her feel protected.
I sometimes like thinking of Holy Spirit as guardian, so I knew what she meant.
I love stories.
I love dog stories too, and I’m thinking about sitting at a table down by the sidewalk in front of the church on High Point Road with a shingle that says:
“Tell me a story about your dog”.
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.