As some of you may know, I simply love the work of John O’Donohue.I’ve previously used this extract from his wonderful piece entitled “To Cross the Thresholds Worthily When a Great Moment Knocks on the Door of your Heart” (from his book “Benedictus”) in an assembly for Year 11 school-leavers:
“It remains the dream of every life to realise itself, to reach out and lift itself up to greater heights. A life that continues to remain on the safe side of its own habits and repetitions, that never engages with risk of its own possibilities, remains an unlived life.
There is within each heart a hidden voice that calls out for freedom and creativity.
We often linger for years in spaces that are too small and shabby for the grandeur of our spirit. Yet experience always remains faithful to us. If lived truthfully and generously, it will always guide us towards the real pastures.
Looking back along a life’s journey, you come to see how each of the central phases of your life began at a decisive threshold where you left one way of being and entered another. A threshold is not simply an accidental line that happens to separate one region from another. It is an intense frontier that divides a world of feeling from another. Often a threshold only becomes visible once you have crossed it. Crossing can often mean the total loss of all you enjoyed while on the other side; it becomes a dividing line between the past and the future. More often than not, the reason you cannot return to where you were is that you have changed; you are no longer the one who crossed over…”
At the end of my time on Iona, I wanted to say a few words to my fellow-volunteers – in gratitude and appreciation for all that they’d meant to me during my stint on the island… and so, once again, I used these words of John O’Donohue’s at my final meeting with them to express how I’d felt that our time together had, in various ways, been a kind of threshold for all of us too.Since returning home, I’ve been using a book of daily readings and meditations from the Iona Community entitled “Living Letters of the Word”. Significantly, today’s reading was an extract from an Iona Community Annual Report by Peter MacDonald (Leader of the Iona Community – whom I’d met during my time on the island) entitled “A Threshold Experience”(!). Here’s an extract:
“Much of the Iona Community’s work is concerned with bringing together people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives in safe but creatively provocative encounters and situations. In academic fields such as anthropology and psychology, such encounters and situations are described as ‘liminal’. The Latin word ‘limen’ means threshold. Threshold space where all transformation happens. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and writer who led a programme week in the Abbey, comments: ‘Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual. This is why much of the work of God is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential. It is the ultimate teachable space… maybe the only one. Most spiritual giants try to live lives in “chronic liminality” in some sense. They know it is the only position that insures ongoing wisdom, broader perspective and ever-deeper compassion…’
“Liminal time and space provide us with the opportunity to step back from our lives, from social and cultural norms, to look at them afresh, enabling transformation to take place. The Iona Community believes that Christians are called to threshold spaces and activities”.
Photo: door to St Columba's Shrine, Iona Abbey.