pondering the threshold

On days like today, unlike other particular moments it seems, we are made aware of the passage of time. We become somehow intentionally conscious of both the passageways that we have traveled, as well as the ones, anticipated or as yet unseen, which lie ahead upon our journey. It seems, on certain days like these alone….births and birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, menarche and menopause, midlife, family and career beginnings, relationship endings, retirement, illness, loss, death and funerals….we are more acutely aware of the passageway and that we are standing in a threshold. This is, of course, rather similar to our usual way of being attentive to presence of the Sacred, for although something profoundly holy lies within each moment, typically we pay attention to it only occasionally, or glimpse its presence only in retrospect or when painting it into the landscape of our forward thinking hope, and so we completely miss the presence of the sacred within the very moment in which we stand. A student in a class I was once teaching noted that homeless persons often choose deliberately to stand in doorways, because it is warmer there. We who also often feel like the wandering homeless would do well to emulate them, to linger and to notice the subtle change in temperature, to stand more consciously within the protection and the invitation of the doorway. For the Sacredness of Life indeed guards and surrounds each one, and moves right along with us to encircle the next step along the path. The truth is that each moment we stand upon is a threshold. Each moment we stand in time with the path that Life and we have etched lying in our wake… the unique passageway that has led us to this particular doorway, which is ours alone. Each moment is a doorway, created by Life, invited into by Love, opened and closed by the Mystery that Is, even as within each given moment from amongst the array of doorways that are offered, we take a step into the next threshold of our own choosing. It is rather like a dance, I think, this journey, with Life and the self alternately leading, and it is the Sacred Presence within Life that often follows, saying ‘yes’ to our invitation. ‘Yes’, I’ll go with you here. ‘Yes’, I can work within this.  At other times, we wish perhaps that we would be led onto another dance floor, into another room, another house, another town, another culture, for we are certain that this life that has been chosen is somehow too restrictive for us to grow and flourish, to be free. Couldn’t we be over there, standing in the threshold of that other time or place…as a man perhaps (or a woman), a European (at least a Canadian), in a different history, a new career, or following another passion, born into an alternate world of other-opportunity where our unique gift of self might at least have had the chance to nurtured, understood, received and valued. Loved. But, alas, it is perhaps within such moments that we simply cannot see the beauty of the land in which we stand, and we are once again called to trust in a vision that reminds us that ‘All is well’ as it dances us into its embrace. At other times it is the obstacle, not the open door, which greets us in our path and thus disturbs us, unable as we are to see the gift of Sacred presence in the closed door and to trust that all doorways are not meant for us to enter. Yet, the blockage forces us to take another passageway (or to continue upon the one from which we wished to escape), to proceed along the offered/chosen path so that we might encounter some new or richer opportunity for growth. Each experience and situation, stranger or companion along the way is given so that we might receive its nurture, no matter how oddly it may come packaged, how prickly or difficult to open. And so on this day, as indeed each moment, the path of nurture you have followed lies behind you. You have taken into your body and your being each experience of your Life. Each one has been integrated and transformed into your very spirit and your flesh. And it is with awe, which may only come as we linger together within the thin place of a threshold suddenly unveiled, that we ponder the mystery of the journey. The astounding holiness of it all is revealed in the opening of this door that has remained closed to our awareness for so long. And we can see… the miracle of how Spirit was made flesh time and time again within each moment past… the sacredness of the experiences of a lifetime taken in bite by bite as nurture for our growth… the presence of the Sacred within each created thing and situation. It is then, within this threshold that we can look forward to perceive the universe spread out before us like this celebration feast. It is in this spirit that we take Bread into our bodies this day, in awe of the miracle of how it is that this ‘Thing’ that lies behind us, or inert in our palms, these ‘things’ that have been dead to us, that appear to be so different than who we are, can enter in, work their way into our very cells to be integrated, come alive, become us. Noticing this, we may recognize with awe how the Bread and our selves and the whole of life are in fact made of the same holy substance, how it is that our experiences and our selves somehow become one, how it is that we are in the process of being transformed, how it is that you and I can be different and the same, both nourished by the bread of life, both becoming bread for others in unique ways. As we drink the cup of Life, and it courses through our veins, we experience communion. Each moment that we experience and take in, each drop of human blood within the self, within the other, is holy, a carrier of the divine. I ponder with reverence how this knowledge of our oneness somehow heals and makes us whole.  There is a scripture verse in the New Testament of the Christian Bible that speaks of thresholds. It has not been my favorite, with its reference to fire, and the usual association with ‘hell’ that too frequently goes with fiery biblical images. Spoken by John the Baptist it goes something like this. ‘God’s winnowing fork is in God’s hand to clear the threshing floor, to gather the wheat into the barn, but the chaff God will burn up in the unquenchable fire’. (Luke 3:17). But what if we take this passage in lovingly, through ears and hearts that have been awakened to the sacredness that is the whole of life. What if all of our live’s experiences are the chaff upon which we have grown? Necessary, seed-bearing, life-giving. What if there is potential nourishment borne within and upon each moment of our lives, seeds that might be made into bread for nurture and growth? We can then joyfully let Love stand behind us on the threshing floor, winnowing us behind this particular thresh-hold, whose purpose is also to hold back the chaff during threshing, the chaff that we no longer need to carry. Let it be burnt away so that we can pass more lightly through this doorway, the goodness of our lives at last harvested and gathered. What is it that we no longer need to hold onto, that we can release into the fire? What is the chaff upon which we have grown up to this point, the chaff, which was indeed very good (no matter how we interpreted it at the time or even now) and served well its purpose, but now can be discarded in the harvesting of mature seeds? What is it we will carry forward through the door, that which will sustain us and that will be made into bread? What is it in this particular doorway that we are being invited to let go of…an old image of ourselves, or life, as somehow flawed? What is it we are being asked to cherish and embrace? It is with gratitude that we toss the chaff to the all receptive fire, unquenchable, unceasingly willing and ready to receive that which has released its seeds. There is no hatred of the chaff, rather we honor it for bearing us to this particular time and place, for now we know that it has carried the growing seeds of bread…. Every few days, the cells of our body change and renew, die and are replaced. Every few days we are completely transformed into a brand new body, and yet we remain somehow recognizably ourselves. Such is the way of transformation. Each new experience, taken in, is integrated to become a part of ourselves. Each changes us slightly, yet we  somehow remain fully ourselves in the process. Transformation then is not a change in WHO we are at all, and yet it is. It is the gradual integration of the recognition and the knowledge that that WHO we are is holy, and that the path upon which we trod is sacred. Bit by bit the message is ingested to become us.  Transformation then is a re-membering that comes with the remembrance of who we really are. The sacred bread that we ingest, the precious Life that we have taken part of, is not a foreign substance after all! It is not something that we must reject within ourselves, the Holy is a part of who we are and who we have always been, but now somehow is known. Transformation is a coming home that begins to recognize that the road upon which we travel lies not within an alien land but a holy one, that life’s journey is indeed blessed. From this threshold of unveiled wisdom we can move with grace and openness, trusting that what lies ahead is likewise blessed. We can stay the course, explore the path, greet the new, choose with assurance because we know that something Sacred lies within it all. Even as we maintain an openness to receive the new, engaging in the busyness of choosing, ingesting, changing, and becoming, we honor ourselves and the One who created life in this form through our steadfast commitment to the uniqueness of our self, the particularity of our journey, the distinctive gifts of person, place, tradition, culture, situation, world into which we have been born. As the body honors its commitment to its form even while changing moment by moment at the cellular level, we also honor the miracle contained within the singular form of our lifetime of experience as we change and grow.  And though each life is distinct and no two passages are the same, because with each opening of a door comes the opportunity also to close, to say yes or no, to agree to what is being offered or to dissent, to invite or to reject, to lead or to follow, to welcome or to keep out, to carry forward or to leave behind … somewhere along the way there also comes the gradual recognition of the Oneness of it all, the similarity of our stories with the Story, the common elements of the sacred, the unity of the journey. Such is the transformative experience of life, a lifelong process of crossing over thresholds, of embracing and releasing, of growing toward oneness, toward wholeness. Transformation then is not a destination but a process, a perpetual re-turning, along this spiral path inward, toward the recognition of the nature of our true selves, the taking it in bit by bit, moment by moment, experience by experience until we have at last re-collected the holiness of our life. Each passage by a similar place draws us deeper, each encounter with the similarity of another’s story…be it Old or new… brings a deeper recognition of the sacredness of the journey, a richer wisdom and peace that comes from having somehow mysteriously passed this way before along the way, until we fully know within each and every threshold the presence of the Holy. However shrouded, it does shroud us.  Such has been the journey of our lives thus far, such it will be again as we pass this way, through the many thresholds of life’s many seasons, onward toward wisdom.

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