Thursday, 17 October 2013

On the edge...

Idly following threads which began in my inbox, I found this delightful picture this morning - here. Huge and happy h/t to Erik Kwakkel. And I enjoyed his comment about the monk's face peering out at us from the letter Q:
"The pilot, looking spooked, has mixed feelings about the empty margin his sparkly Q-plane is heading for, the wordless abyss that nobody ever returns from."

Margins, edges, borders and boundaries... Liminal spaces. Scary, challenging, creative, empty yet fertile... If you look at the little images of extraordinary hybrids and fantastic creatures drawn in the margins of many Mediaeval illuminated manuscripts (have a look here, for example) you'll see just what creative (and unsettling) places margins can be!

Esther de Waal has written an excellent book about the edge-places we may inhabit, called Living On The Border - it grew out of her reflection on living on the borders of England and Wales. She begins the book by saying this: "There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: 'a threshold is a sacred thing'. In some places of the world, in some traditional cultures, in monastic life, this is still remembered.  It is something, however, that we often forget today..."

I'm still thinking about what it meant for me to be a deacon and how I might now live out some of that charism in my new(-ish; nearly 14 years as a Catholic - I'm a slow thinker!) life. The deacon was always associated with the doors of the church - the door-keeper and go-between.  It's cold and uncomfortable to stand in the doorway, but it's a place of mission, of encounter, of transformation. A "sacred thing" indeed.  There is a huge paradox I'm still exploring of what it means for me to be grounded, nurtured, held and to belong (without that, I know, my growth will be stunted and my ministry weakened) and yet not to lose sight of my place in the doorway.

Pope Francis spoke in his Chrism Mass homily about the image of Aaron's anointing, and how the oil ran down to the edges of his garments. This is the centrifugal dynamic of ministry - out to the edges, always; its origin and template is the outpouring love of God - the oomph of God, as James Alison puts it. And it's in the threshold places we remember this. In speaking to a parish on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis even said that "reality is understood not from the centre but from the suburbs, the margins." 

So the little monk sails out into the margin in his letter Q, which begins a whole clutch of question words in Latin. A letter we'd rather not get in Scrabble, but which carries a high reward if we can use it.

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