Richard Rohr on Liminal Space and Thin Times

What some call “liminal space” or threshold space (limen in Latin means a threshold, a starting line in a race, or a beginning place) is a very good phrase for those special times, events, and places that open us up to the sacred. It seems we need special (“sacred”) days to open us up to all days being special and sacred; we need special and sacred times to universalize to all time. (It is only some forms of late-blooming Protestantism that never recognized this need.) Even ancient Initiation Rites were both intensely sacred time and space to send the initiate into a newly discovered sacred universe.

What became All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day (November 1-2) were already called “thin times” by the ancient Celts, as also were February 1-2 (St. Bridget’s Day and Candlemas Day when the candles were blessed and lit). The veil between this world and the next world was considered most “thin” and most easily traversed during these times. On these days, we were invited to be aware of deep time—that is, past, present, and future time gathered into one especially holy moment. On these pivotal days we are reminded that our ancestors are still in us and work with us and through us; we called it the “communion of saints.” The New Testament phrase for this was “when time came to a fullness,” as when Jesus first announces the Reign of God (Mark 1:15) or when Mary comes to the moment of birth (Luke 2:6). We are in liminal space whenever past, present, and future time come together in a “full” moment of readiness. We are in liminal space whenever the division between “right here” and “over there” is obliterated in our consciousness.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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