“Awe is a reflex of the spirit.” —Elpinor

Greek Mountains.jpeg

In the remote mountains of northern Greece, there once lived a monk who had desired all of his life to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre -- to walk three times around it, to kneel, and to return home a new person.  Gradually through the years he had saved what money he could, begging in the villages nearby, and finally, near the end of his life, had enough set aside to begin his trip.  He opened the gates of the monastery and, staff in hand, set out with great anticipation on his way to Jerusalem.

But no sooner had he left the cloister than he encountered a man in rags, sad and bent to the ground, picking herbs.  "Where are you going, Father?" the man asked.  "To the Holy Sepulchre, brother.  By God's grace, I shall walk three times around it, kneel, and return home a different man from what I am."

"How much money to do that do you have, Father?" inquired the man.  "Thirty pounds," the monk answered.  "Give me the thirty pounds," said the beggar.  "I have a wife and hungry children.  Give me the money, walk three times around me, then kneel and go back into your monastery."

The monk thought for a moment, scratching the ground with his staff, then took the thirty pounds from his sack, gave the whole of it to the poor man, walked three times around him, knelt, and went back through the gates of his monastery.

He returned home a new person, of course, having recognized that the beggar was a holy person delivering the release he craved -- not in some magical place far away, but right outside his monastery door, mysteriously close.  In abandoning his quest for the remote, the special, the somehow "magical," the monk discovered a meaning far more profound in the ordinary experience close to home.  All that he had given up came suddenly rushing back to him with a joy unforeseen. 


“We lay and looked up at the sky and the millions of stars that blazed in darkness.  The night was so still that we could hear the buoy on the ledges out beyond the mouth of the bay.  Once or twice a word spoken by someone on the far shore was carried across the clear air.  A few lights burned in the cottages.  Otherwise, there was no reminder of other human life . . .

It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century or even once in a human generation, this little headland would be thronged with spectators.  But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead;  and because they could see it almost any night perhaps they will never see it.” (Rachel Carson)