Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with Richard Rohr: Liminal Space

Holy Saturday | Readings: Luke 24:1-12


“After a day or two Yahweh will bring us back to life; on the third day God will raise us up, and we shall live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:2) /p>

Limen is the Latin word for threshold. A “liminal space” is the crucial in-between time—when everything actually happens and yet nothing appears to be happening. It is the waiting period when the cake bakes, the movement is made, the transformation takes place. One cannot just jump from Friday to Sunday in this case, there must be Saturday! This, of course, was always the holy day for the Jewish tradition. The Sabbath rest was the pivotal day for the Jews, and even the dead body of Jesus rests on Saturday, waiting for God to do whatever God plans to do. It is our great act of trust and surrender, both together. A new “creation ex nihilo” is about to happen, but first it must be desired.

For all of us this is the necessary “handing over time,” when soul and Spirit rejoin with body. Now we call it necessary “grief work.” Time is in connivance with Eternity and Eternity does not play outside of its rules. The first mystery must be contained, suffered, and contemplated before the new birth can take place. The tomb is temporarily a womb.

“They laid the body in a tomb that had been cut into the rock, and rolled a stone across the entrance,” says Mark’s Gospel. Luke has the women “watch,” and then they go home to prepare spices and perfumes, and “observe the Sabbath as a day of rest.” Greatness does not just happen unprepared. It must be waited for, needed, desired, and an inner space must be created. The Sabbath rest is everything—and yet nothing. Just like the soul and like the Spirit.

Tonight the church will celebrate its central liturgy for the entire church year. All pivots around this night and this necessary transformation of the soul. Yes, Jesus is the one who walks it consciously first, but it is so that we can trustfully follow. Tomorrow will be different than today. One must have walked through this Mystery at least once—on some level of real life—or it is just pretty ritual and rarefied belief. Augustine rightly named it the “paschal mystery” or the mystery of passing over.

I will end with that, so you can entrust yourself now to a life passage that is beyond any of my words to get you there, or any proof that it really happened for Jesus. You finally have to walk it yourself. When the whole cycle happens to you, you will know it could well have happened to Jesus, and maybe even did! Now you are ready for Sunday, the first day of the week, the ever-new day of Resurrected Life, which will allow you henceforth to read all your life backward and understand, and read it forward with hope. Remember, hope is not some vague belief that “all will work out well,” but biblical hope is the certainty that things finally have a victorious meaning no matter how they turn out. We learned that from Jesus, which gives us now the courage to live our lives forward from here. Maybe that is the full purpose of Lent.


“On the first day of the week, at first light, the women came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled back from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” —Luke 24:1–2


“Ever Risen Christ, you have taken me into your mystery of passion, death, waiting, and new life. Because I trust you, I trust my own dyings too. Allow me this Easter to go all the way with you, and to now trust our Eternal Sunday even more than any Passing Friday or Waiting Saturday. Amen.”

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