Seasons of the Soul
Holy Saturday: The Space Between
This Lent has been in part for me about dwelling in the border spaces of my life and recognizing those places and experiences that do not offer me easy answers, those fierce edges of life where things are not as clear-cut as I hope for them to be. There is beauty in the border spaces, those places of ambiguity and mystery. In Esther de Waal's rich little book To Pause at the Threshold: Reflections on Living on the Border, she writes that the ability to live with uncertainty requires courage and the need to ask questions over finding answers. I am called to hold the space for mystery within me.
In Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All, William Countryman writes that this border country is one we all carry within us. There is a fault line running down the middle of our lives that connects our ordinary reality with its deeper roots. The border country, he argues, is what gives our lives meaning:
This border country is a place of intense vitality. It does not so much draw us away from the everyday world as it plunges us deeper into a reality of which the everyday world is like the surface . . . To live there for a while is like having the veils pulled away.
Threshold space opens us up to life that is vital, intense, and filled with unknowns. Borders and edges are the places of transformation, transformation that makes demands of us. Jesus' journey in the desert was a willingness to dwell in the border space of that landscape and the walk toward Holy Week often fills me with more questions than answers.
Suggestion for Practice
Much of our lives are spent in Holy Saturday places but we spend so much energy resisting, longing for resolution and closure. Our practice this day is to really enter into the liminal zone, to be present to it with every cell of our being.
Make some time on Holy Saturday to sit with all of the paradoxes of life. Bring yourself as fully present as you can to the discomfort of the experience. Rest in the space of waiting and unknowing and resist trying to come up with neat answers or resolutions. Imagine yourself on a wild border or standing on a threshold, knowing that you cannot fully embrace what is on the other side until you have let this place shape and form your heart. When you notice your attention drifting or your mind starting to analyze, return to your breath and the present moment. Allow yourself to feel whatever arises in this space. Honor the mystery.
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., is a Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery without walls offering online classes in contemplative practice and creative expression and pilgrimages to Ireland, Germany, and Austria. She is the author of eight books on monasticism and creativity including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Ave Maria Press) and her forthcoming book The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Inner Journey (Spring 2015, Ave Maria Press). Christine lives as a monk in the world in Galway, Ireland with her husband of twenty years.