Last night, I dreamed of Ballyvaloo; a soulful place that sits softly upon the Wexford shoreline, a threshold which has been known for millennia as the Sacred Cape. Our faith helps us to remember the goodness of past times, the work of the Spirit of God who blesses the memories of the just, a sacred awareness that endures any hardship.
Neuroscience tells us that our dreams help us to regulate the astounding amount of emotions that flow between our memories and our experiences. The rich vein of memory, the incredible journey of experience and the highs or lows of emotion weave together our inner life from the fabric of creation.
Memory, experience and emotion … three parts made complete within us for one cannot be without the other. I remember observing the birds visiting the well-placed feeders, a reverent experience that brought joy to my heart and spoke to me of a deep connection with creation.
Rolling waves, low breezes glistening brightly with sand grains, colourful wildflowers dancing amidst the dunes, the murmur of quiet conversations, the warmth of kindness, the beauty of mindful prayer and the embrace of hospitality; all play their parts in the unfolding story of creation.
Memory, experience and emotion … three parts that have their place in time and space; manifested within the human person and most perfectly in Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In sacred places, these three parts reveal a profound melody, a trinitarian echo of God that helps the soul contemplate the wholeness within.
The creative power of memory, the well-earned wisdom of experience and the life-giving emotion of love elevates our inner being towards the divine. The grandeur of creation and the grace within our souls express a mystical solidarity that could only have come as a precious gift from God.
The trinitarian dynamic of our inner life is the very image of God. Reflecting upon our journey through life helps us to fathom how God encounters us. Memory, experience and emotion; the head, the hands and the heart.
Scientific accounts of human origins tell the story of one human family living worldwide. So too does the biblical account. In our deep past, memory, experience and emotion danced together effortlessly. The drama of dreams played out in oral history and shaped written language. Is it any wonder that nearly half of the dreams recorded in the Bible appear in Genesis?
In our dreams, we sense the fluidity of our existence in God’s creation, a song line travelling through the ocean of space and time. Our DNA carries the memories of our past and epigenetics reveals the intergenerational transmission of experience. The umbilical cord that connects us to our mothers never entirely disappears. The memories of our ancestors live on through us.
It is good to celebrate belonging. It begins with memory. We carry memory for each other, passing down the moments that matter, an act of faith that connects the past, the present and the future. All memory is sacred and becomes fully realised in Christ’s memorial. Jesus himself urged us to remember. And so the Last Supper became the first celebratory meal for Christians. Memory is truth.
Without experience, memory is sterile. It is our own unique experiences that add to memory. Life is experiential in more ways than one, testing the boundaries of the possible. It has always been thus. From the first cells that formed on earth, life has flourished through experience forming a great Tree of Life in harmony with the natural world. In human terms, our capacity for experience is inseparable from our journey of self-discovery aided by the boundless Spirit of Belonging. Experience is the way.
Without emotion, experience is flat, and memory is lessened. It is our emotions that light the way and instil in us a yearning for goodness and truth. It is only the Spirit of Belonging that can enlighten us with gifts of wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, understanding, piety and a deep reverence for God. Emotion both receives and reaches for the divine through love, the greatest force known to humankind. Love is life.
It is only with, through and in God that our memories, experiences and emotions find rest and begin to heal. Our human memories are not perfect, our experiences are not ideal, and our emotions can lead us away from love. When we glimpse wholeness within, we witness the sacramental work of God.
Self-knowledge works within each one of us and within whole communities. It is only found through interdependence, relationship and connection. It is the basis for our worship, which lights our path through the deep history of the universe, knitting together our memories, our experiences and our emotions by offering our deepest self to God.
Prayer unites our inner life with all that lies outside of us reaching up towards the divine. God is the source and summit of our inner life who elevates the deepest meaning of our memories, experiences and emotions towards perfect unity.
There is One God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three divine persons that reach out across the cosmos and into the depths of our being. The mystery of God helps us to ponder our own nature and better understand Sacred Scripture, scientific accounts of creation, the history of the world and our own lives.
Without the Other, there is no I. For each one of us, the divine nature of God forms the basis for our relationships, with each other and with all creation. It is the cornerstone of our faith; the basis for fulfilment within us and the wellspring for unity all around us.
During this time of pandemic, we’ve had to leave many things behind, but we do not forget for the Church grows within us. As sacred places, churches reveal the story of all creation, the providential journey of humankind and the path of the inner life. This is true, whether they be big or small, grand or humble, near or far.
In my heart, I have not left Ballyvaloo behind. It is with me now buried within my soul by the grace of God. All our experiences become memory coloured by emotion. It should not be remarkable that God calls in a special way to all three aspects of our being, calling them to become one.
We carry God’s truth, beauty, goodness and love within us. Grace is boundless and we cannot see all ends. With God in our hearts, we remember the greatest story ever told, dwell in the presence of the divine and journey forward in hope.
Last night, I dreamed of Ballyvalloo and I saw three golden threads lead off over the horizon. Looking within, I saw these golden threads wrap themselves around my soul, weave their paths through the great Tree of Life and form an intricate web of existence throughout all creation. God brings our memories, our experiences and our emotions towards their true end. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.