This is from the weekly newsletter at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Millburn, the January 17,2020 edition. It was suggested that I share it more widely, so I do so now with you.
There is an anthropological concept: liminality (from the Latin limen, meaning “threshold”) which is about transition, the time when what was is no longer but what is next is yet to come. It is a time of expectation, of anticipation, of hopeful uncertainty. This is something that pertains to rites of passage, especially in cultures in which there are strong rituals to mark such times. In everyday life, some people experience liminality in challenging life experiences, such as when one is between jobs or is aware of facing end of life.
Celtic spirituality often ascribes liminality to places. In liminal spaces it is said that the veil between heaven and earth, between the Divine and creation, is lifted. The Scottish island of Iona is one such place. People who visit feel changed, they experience transformation in their relationship with God and God’s creation. Liminality is not limited to those places multitudes have had this experience. A liminal space is any place or any time you know or see God in a way that changes you, that moves you deeper into the holy mysteries, deeper into the heart of God.
For me, liminal spaces have long involved bodies of water, such as the ocean or a lake, especially during sunrise or sunset. The picture on the top left is of sunset in Matunuck, Rhode Island, one of my happy places. The middle is sunset on Otter Lake in Greenfield, New Hampshire, home of another happy place, the Barbara C. Harris Camp & Conference Center. The last picture is of the Glorieta Pass in Glorieta, New Mexico. As you can see, there is no water visible anywhere, nor is there any changing light. Imagine my surprise when I repeatedly found myself looking around, marveling at the astonishing beauty of a landscape that is so unlike those that usually speak to my heart. And yet, speak to my heart it did, at times in the way that I find myself catching my breath because I don’t want to do anything to lower the veil between heaven and earth, anything that will prevent me from going deeper, getting closer to God.
I share this with you today, not just because I still bask in the experience. I encourage you to notice when a place or a time when you realize you are catching your breath or have goosebumps or tears in your eyes or whatever it is that signals to you that you are experience God in that moment. And that take a few moments to bask in the experience before offering a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude to the one who loves YOU beyond all imagination.
Copyright 2020 The Rev. Paula J. Toland