Friday, February 27, 2015

Liturgy, Liminal Space, Ritual and Meaning

When Spiritual communities gather to perform weekly rituals it is called a "liturgy". The word comes from Ancient Greece. It is a compound of the word for people, "laos", and the word for work, "urgy".   As a community project the whole village would repair a road or a bridge together: it was the work of the people, public works.
The word is used to designate communal rituals. All the people present are important in a ritual, though some have more prominent roles than others. In a sense it is a performance offered by the community to the divine mystery that is behind, and some would say within, all things. We offer our bodies, minds and spirits to the divine in a time and space. The creation gathers to honor its creator. 

The Celts describe this encounter as a liminal space and time. It is a border line, a thin place where the ordinary and the divine merge, where the relationship between mystery and reality impinges on our hearing, our sight, our imagination. Liminal means frontier. If you know the movies and television programs called "Stargate", you can think of the stargate itself, the door one could enter and by taking a single step travel millions of light years through space. For tens of thousands of years humanity has sought these liminal places, has engaged in rituals to discover the meaning and depth of life.

On the face of it, the Christian liturgy we celebrate today is very simple. We read from ancient texts, we say carefully crafted prayers, we sing songs ancient and modern, we take a little piece of bread, and a few drops of wine and we remember a fateful meal some two thousand years ago, the night before Jesus died. They are ordinary acts, but the liturgy transforms these humble actions into liminal space, space where we spy the divine. In that holy espionage we discover an important truth about humanity. We have purpose, our lives are meaningful, we are cherished, delighted in by Eternity itself. ~Father John

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