A couple of Sunday’s ago, a woman approached me in Church after the service and said, “I got up this morning and felt a hiraeth for Highfields.”

Peter Baker | 21:24, Thursday, 09 December 2010

Perhaps for non-Welsh speakers like myself, I need to explain that Hiraeth is one of those almost indefinable Welsh words. Hiraeth is a longing for what is Welsh or what is associated with Wales - the land, its people and culture. I checked this out with my Welsh speaking mother-in-law (!) and she told me that the word is derived from the verb, "to go" and the noun, "distance".

HiraethSo the expression, I suppose, reflects the experience of homesickness. It’s the consciousness of the individual that he is not where his heart longs to be. It is both the warm glow of nostalgia and the persistent emptiness of unfulfilled longing.

All this from a word which is pronounced "here eyeth". But make sure your roll the "r"!

The back story to the woman in Church was that, having left Cardiff as a qualified medical student some years before, she had returned to the City with her medical career and was trying to work out which Church to attend on Sundays.

That morning she woke up and thought of the Church where once as a student she had worshipped. I smiled with her at the recognition of something powerful that calls us home.

Ingrid Michaelson's delicate, haunting voice explores the same universal theme in her track, Are We There Yet, She sings, "They say home is where the heart is."

CS Lewis understands the human longing for heaven in a similar way:

"All the things that have deeply possessed your soul have been hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ears. It is the secret signature of each soul, the thing we desired before we met our wives, made our friends or chose our work, and which we still desire on our deathbeds."

We long for a place that is just outside of our experience. Somehow we know'‘it' is out there, beyond our grasp, and so our longing propels us to search.

At times we catch glimpses of it, and for a moment think we have found what we were looking for, only to find that the moment is a fleeting one and we are once again disappointed. We aren't able to articulate it, but once we arrive at the destination we will know in our heart of hearts that we have finally found that 'something'. And we’ll exclaim, "Yes, this is my home, this is the place I was looking for."

A far distant country with its culture, or a long distance relationship with its chemistry, these carry the powerful feeling of hiraeth. But they are both expressions of something greater and higher that calls us home - a transcendent longing for heaven.

Jesus put it like this, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

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