As we approach the special time of All Souls and All Saints Days, the following reflection by Richard Rohr is truly uplifting and eye opening.
What some call “liminal space” or threshold space (in Latin, limen means a threshold) 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. This has always been the case and didn’t originate with Christianity. Ancient initiation rites were intensely sacred time and space that sent 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 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 easily traversed during these times. On these days, we are invited to be aware of deep time—that is, past, present, and future time gathered into one especially holy moment. We are reminded that our ancestors are still in us and work with us and through us. We call 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.
Deep time, or the communion of saints professed in Christian creeds, means that our goodness is not just our own, nor is our badness just our own. We are intrinsically social animals. We carry the lived and the unlived (and unhealed) lives of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents as far back as DNA and genomes can trace them—which is pretty far back. It does take a village to create a person. We are the very first generation to know that this is literally and genetically true. There is deep healing and understanding when we honor the full cycle of life. No wonder so many are intrigued today by genealogy searches and ancestry test kits. Many cry and laugh at their newly discovered place in a long family tree about which they knew little.
Living in the communion of saints means that we can take ourselves very seriously (we are part of a Great Whole) and not take ourselves too seriously at all (we are just a part of the Great Whole) at the very same time. I hope this frees us from any unnecessary individual guilt—and, more importantly, frees us to be full “partners in God’s triumphant parade” through time and history (2 Corinthians 2:14). We are in on the deal and, yes, the really Big Deal. We are all a very small part of a very Big Thing! We are little happy and content fish in a huge and limitless ocean.
Richard Rohr, OFM