Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | May 11, 2009

Under the Dome

So we’re all under the dome, right? My unofficial catechesis class was pretty clear… the architects were supposed to give us a dome. There was this bit… something about domes signifying that God bends heaven down to kiss the earth rather than leaving us on our own to make spires as if to poke around “up there” just to see first if there’s anyone home, and if there is, whether they’ve forgotten ’bout us, or decided to let us back in. Makes a nice story, but of course these days – as no doubt always – Orthodox churches come in all shapes and sizes: domes, spires, and even flat as a pancake.

Thus no matter the details, the story holds. And it holds for good reason. For like a priest’s blessing spoken first and followed with his hand on our heads as if to make certain we’re here, or to make clear whom he is blessing… or even to specifically transmit a blessing that is all of this and more… beyond words and filled with the love of Christ felt in the warmth of his heart, fed by the Eucharist and  coursing through his system to the very hand that falls lightly on our heads.. that we might be touched by the very same warmth… all through the dome of our heads.

Some of course are blessed to have the padding of hair in these places. Others of us offer a more direct medium.

And this very personal dome is indeed the dome where heaven may bend down to kiss the earth filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit in our lives… if only we are so blessed to seek it, to sense it, and to respond. And yet being the highest point in the temple of our person, no doubt we are prone so often to our own thoughts, to our own ways, and to simply being on our own as if unkissed, untouched, and unloved… and unblessed. And as if in our own personal Towers of Babel, we instead remain puzzles unto ourselves. This is the unreality of our separate lives and the disintegration of our selves from our intention… from God’s intention. And yet even in our misguided separateness, we think we intend far different, far better, but have simply turned the wrong way.

It is nonetheless a way of many wonders, and of gifts beyond measure. And these days, these gifts seem ever at our fingertips, at our personal whim and disposal, and as apparent riches, gifts, and wonders they are more powerful than any illusion. Their reality is intoxicating as if a paradise more wondrous than any god can create…or even the True God can manage… for the beauties of nature we have polluted with our wastes and cast-offs, and the loveliness of the heavens we have polluted with our fears, our weapons, our wars, and our stories of alien beings seeking our destruction. Increasingly only those places kept aside from our use, beyond our reach – even beyond our imagination, or those places rescued from our use are left untouched… and now rather than reflecting the work of God alone reflect our choices, and exist as much by the work of our hands as any other.

But under the dome, there still remains a work untouched by our hands. Within the mind, within the heart there is a place that God alone can touch… a place beyond even the greatest evils we may seek to surround it with as if to violate the very gates. This Holy of Holies is our true and hidden temple… and retains the image indellibly left there by our Creator. And as invisible as it may become to us, if allowed to manifest itself , it shines through the paradox before us to pierce the power of our manifest illusions, to shake the greatest powers we can manage as the weaknesses they are, and to reveal our weaknesses in their true power…  to simply sustain an altogether different, and all-encompassing reality.

All this lies under the dome. It’s a busy place, a place of paradox, a place of condemnation, of redemption, of love and heart break. It is a place where the sweat of one’s brow is rewarded with warmth, where toil is the treasure and measure of the man,  but where rest and leisure seem something for another day… or a mistaken side alley.  It is a place of worship as well as sacrilege, and of tears… and if we are grateful… it is as well a place of laughter – especially laughter – as well… but laughter at ourselves, our foibles and out of love.   It is a place where we are born, reborn, and a place where we will die once, twice, over and over… and again. This is life, or the story of one life under the dome, and no doubt, not much different than any other. But by God’s grace, it will have its markers, and those may prove pleasing in eyes of  the Living God that takes measure where our own cannot and should not… and on the last may attest to a life lived fiercely, peaceably as a grace to others, and embracing the anonymity of the saints.

And I submit this is nevertheless a dream or a wish… but a dream lived at least in part rather kept alone as something for those moments before sleep where the choice to remember God or remember only one’s self forms the last breath of the day. Yes, it should be the whole of that life, the rudder and balance of that life… but like so many dreams… of those moments on the edge of sleep… it is both within my grasp… and utterly beyond it. There are always problems in steerage.

And as with so much Under the Dome… it remains an unfinished business.


  1. “and to simply being on our own as if unkissed, untouched, and unloved… and unblessed.”

    “And, doubly dying, shall go down
    To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
    Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.”

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