On an earlier post, I talked about an experience I had in France at Notre-Dame d’Avenas. Well, since the experience gets weirder, I thought I’d take a moment to examine it with you, Dear Reader.
When I finished that entry (see below), I went upstairs to my husband, Ron’s, office, cleared a pile of papers off the leather comfy chair so I could sit down and said, “I’m really confused about this church thing. It seems it’s REALLY not anything like I remember it. It’s probably just me, but tell me exactly, precisely, how you remember that church.”
Ron gave me one of those, “Oh dear, she’s got that mystical gleam in her eyes again” looks, but since he is a kind and indulgent man, he stopped tapping away at his keyboard and gave me his attention.
“Well,” he said, “it was a tiny church, in the middle of nowhere. A beehive church, very plain, not much bigger than this room. Interestingly carved altar. A little window behind it. No pews or anything, just a stone circular — you know, beehive — church. Simple. Austere. Very peaceful place. Great light from that little window coming it.” He paused, looking off into the past. “I remember we’d been driving through this area where all these markers noted where French resistance fighters had been shot by the Germans. It was unsettling. And then this little church. It was so quiet. No one around anywhere. Just this small beehive of stone.”
“Yes,” I said, “That the way I remember it, too.”
“So?” he said.
I showed him the photo I’d found on line, of the outside of the church. A real church. Not a big church, but a church, with a narthex and a nave and pews and all that.
“That’s not the place,” he said.
“I’m afraid it it. Look at the altar. Apparently it’s famous.” I showed him the photo (he’s a GREAT photographer) had taken of the inside of the church — that intricately carved altar — and the one on the website. Identical. Except for the fact the one on the website is in this big old church in the middle of a village.
“Can’t be.” He got very serious then, googling this and that, checking maps, historical sites, all that sort of thing.
After some period he turned me me again. “How can that be? How can the place we both remember so precisely, and both of us with the same memory, be so different?”
“I’ve no idea,” I said. “Just that something strange happened there to us.”
“But you can’t miss walking into a church, past pews. We can’t BOTH have missed it.”
“We had an experience I think.”
Ron looked dubious, and I can hardly blame him. He knows I have strange concepts about time not being linear, and about God’s time, sacred time, kairos, possibly being more real than our time. Well, maybe a few physicists back me up on this (and certainly understand it better!), but it’s still a hard concept to either describe or get one’s head around — all things happening everywhere always.
“You think what, exactly” he said, frowning.
“I think maybe it was what the Celts called a ‘Thin Place.'”
“Places were the veils between the worlds are thin?”
“Uhuh,” he said. “I don’t think I could talk to anyone about this. It’s too weird.”
“Certainly is,” I said.
And we didn’t say much more about it then, but later, as we lay in bed and we talked about how strange it was, but how there was also something incredibly affecting about the church we had both experienced, how it had stayed with us for fourteen years, and how lucky we were to have had this experience, whatever the heck it was, together.
I fell asleep with my arms around my husband and the memory of that little beehive church in my mind. The curving stone walls, the light slanting over the altar, the warmth of the place, the sense of being in an earth womb, if you will, safe, protected, held. . .
I have no idea what it was/is all about, only that a sense of grace and gratitude hangs over it. Might be just a twist of our memories, but even that, the identical nature of the memories, makes it sacred to me.
I’d love to hear if anyone else out there has ever had such an experience.