Hostel of God

A french hospital showing the close relationship of hospital and cathedral

The sun was just beginning to crest over the red rock hills of St. George, as we entered the Dixie Regional Medical Center. A kind, silver-haired gentleman greeted us at the door, his nametag indicating that, even at this early morning hour, “volunteers” are filling their golden years with good works. He directed us to a waiting area where I got a cup of coffee and settled into a corner chair, in anticipation of a long day of reading and catching up on emails. Meanwhile, my parents filled out some last minute paperwork for my stepfather’s surgery. As I looked around the room, filled  mostly with older men and women, a perceptible feeling of anxiety filled the air. Clutching overnight bags and talking in nervous loud whispers, all seemed extremely humble. One by one, the room emptied as nurses called out their names, Frank, Hilda, Robert, names that betrayed the years of their birth.  The hours wore on, and Glenn Beck blared in the background (I think old people like Glenn Beck because they figure if it is almost the end of the world for them it might as well be for everyone).  Eventually, doctors began to come into the room, looking for anxious relatives to report on surgeries that had gone as planned. A collective sigh of relief could be heard from the whole group who had been brought together by a Tuesday morning schedule. As I watched the confidence and carriage of these young doctors, doctors who had spent years studying and learning the skills of a surgeon, it was hard to not note the contrast. Once again I heard the small voice that has become my constant companion whisper, “God is in the paradox.” The Greek Orthodox theologians teach any statement of God must be paradoxical, to remind us that the divine cannot fit into our limited human categories. God did indeed seem to be in the paradox of this hospital/cathedral. Spending a few days visiting in a hospital, I could understand how healing happens with the skill of a surgeon, but also with the soothing voice of a recovery nurse. The high tech of the hospital was balanced with the peace of the healing gardens. The brusqueness of the focused doctors was eased by the kindness and comfort of  “Rose” the nurse. The prayers of relatives were answered with skills gained from years of study by the medical staff.  Knowledge was balanced by humility.

The word hospital comes for the Latin word hospus meaning stranger or foreigner. Other similar words are hospitality, hotel, hostel, and hospice. In Medieval times, a hospital was the work of the church to provide a place of shelter for the visitor, the stranger and the infirm. Each town with a cathedral also had a hospital The French word for hospital is Hotel-Dieu meaning “hostel of God.” Today, architects design hospitals as a “hotel” of sorts. Emphasis is now given to both the technology and the aesthetics of the building. Dixie Regional Medical center serves as an art gallery as many of Southern Utah’s finest artists display their work in the halls. The gardens surrounding the hospital, gifts from philanthropists, are peaceful and beautiful; the staff seemed unusually kind, trained to be “hospitable”.

A few days sitting in the hospital, away from the everyday cares of life became a Sabbath. I realized that I have found God in the paradox of faith and reason. Healing requires both body and spirit. Spirituality consists of seeking and finding; wisdom is a product of joy and pain and life is found in birth and death. The paradox insures that I cannot ever create God in my image

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3 Responses to Hostel of God

  1. cathy gardner says:

    That was beautiful! You have a gift with words…thanks for sharing!

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for expressing that all so nicely for the rest of us who also spent some time sitting at that hospital last week.

  3. I love this mom! I just saw it (I need to add you to the blog roll).
    You need to submit this.

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