Thursday, May 8, 2008

Liminal Space

This week is officially the seventh and last week of the Easter season--a holiday now long past in the "real world." These ten days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday are a kind of liminal space--still a part of the Easter season and yet more a part of the upcoming Ordinary Time that will last until the beginning of Advent.

All week we've been using "spirit" songs in our prayer. Everyone loves them, as they are inspiring, upbeat and alive. Here's a line from today's: "O Holy Spirit, by whose breath life rises vibrant out of death; come to create, renew, inspire; come, kindle in our hearts your fire."

Our Pentecost liturgy on Sunday is always a very special and creative one. I saw the outline of the liturgy yesterday and it really is going to be a glorious "Welcome Spirit" event.

This return to Ordinary Time is also a return to celebrating lots of feasts of saints. Three important English ones of the Benedictine order are coming up this month. Augustine of Canterbury, the first archbishop of the famed cathedral, was an early 7th century monk called "the Apostle to the English." Later in that century, Bede the Venerable, a doctor of the church, made his mark by his love for all things written, as he penned the classic Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The third is Julian of Norwich, most probably a Benedictine nun of the 14th century, who lived most of her life as a hermit and mystic. Her writings of her revelations of God and her spiritual life are valued by many even in our time.

Here's what Thomas Moore writes about saints:

A particularly hypnotic form of religious chanted poetry is the litany, often sung by monks on special occasions. "Te rogamus audi nos" the monks chant, as long lists of saints are sung. Hear us, we beg you.

I think of the many men and women who have touched me during my years and who form a litany of names cherished and feared and fondly remembered. Te rogamus audi nos.

Hear me, my grandparents, who gave me so much of their hearts. Hear me, friends, who stayed with me in my most unconscious and unripe years. Hear me, my ancestors, whose written words and objects of art have educated me. Hear me, former loves, who feel my rejection and coldness.

Only a finite number of names can be in our litany, and so we sing to them as precious saints who have graced our lives.