“Crossing the Threshold is all about this new world with new rules. In our spiritual journey, our quest to find our true self, this may mean that for the first time we truly enter the spiritual world.”
Thresholds are dangerous places. They present a barrier to prevent us from crossing into places even more dangerous. We have been warned from age to age about the dangers of going into the woods at night, onto the moors, the desert places, and the open oceans for “here there be dragons.” To keep us away from the crossing points that lead to the unknown, our folklore has populated these places with demons, ogres, and all manner of evil spirits meant to scare us, and keep us safely in the world we know. But just as often these dangers grant boons and rewards to the hero who approaches them in the right way.
At some point early on in the story, the hero resolves to answer the Call. His first test is to cross the threshold from the known into the unknown. He may cross it willingly, or he may be forced over it, either pushed from his known world, or drawn by some person or force from the unknown world.
This crossing is often triggered by an event. This event brings the hero to a point of crisis where he must make a decision, to fully commit himself to the adventure or to draw back and remain in his safe known world. Crossing the threshold represents a commitment on the hero’s part to embark on his quest.
The first Star Wars movie was very conscious of the hero’s journey. When Luke’s aunt and uncle, his adoptive parents, are killed, it is this event that triggers his crossing into the unknown. This figurative crossing is made more visible in the spaceport of Mos Eisley, that “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Here he encounters Threshold Guardians in the form of imperial stormtroopers and hostile aliens. This is where he fully commits to this new path he has found himself on.
Thresholds are also places for us to prepare for the trials that lay ahead. They are places to gather information and make allies that will help us along the way.
We cross many thresholds in our lives, points at which we literally leave the known and safe world behind, and enter into a new world with new rules to learn. Think about leaving home for the first time, getting married, your first child; all of these are moments in our lives where everything changes. Another of my favorite moments from the Doctor Who series is when The Doctor is horrified by the actions of another character, “you changed the future!” and the character replies, “it’s called getting married, dear.”
Crossing the Threshold is all about this new world with new rules. In our spiritual journey, in our quest to find our true self, this may mean that for the first time we truly enter the spiritual world. Our reality, the world created by God, is made up of things we can see and things we cannot see, the visible and the invisible, the seen and the unseen. Up until about the 12th century, the invisible world was considered every bit as real as the visible world. But when the Church split between East and West our perception of the world seemed to split with it. It was almost like a divorce settlement, the Eastern Church got the Spiritual world and the Western Church got the physical world.
Even today, while both churches have elements of both, the Orthodox have a much more mystical, spiritual approach to theology, while the Catholics generally have a more worldly approach. This is why it is so important that these two halves of the Church be reconciled, we have so much to learn from each other.
In the West, particularly here in 21st century America, we give so little attention to the invisible world that we have very nearly managed to convince ourselves that it does not exist. Catholics, perhaps, have a little more understanding of it, but even so it is like knowing something to be true without actually experiencing it. It is like knowing that fire is hot without ever actually being burned by it.
For us here in the West, this is the spiritual threshold we must cross. We must fully commit to entering that world that we have perhaps, up to this point, only experienced superficially. It is the world that is hinted at by our statues, holy water, stained glass and votive candles; our saints, our religious medals, rosary beads and sacred art. These things indicate a deep and pervasive sensibility which encourages us to see the sacred lurking in all of creation. Our world, our homes, are haunted by a sense that everyday objects, events and persons of daily life are revelations of grace.
This is a Catholic worldview, so as Catholics it is not entirely unfamiliar to us. But the reality is that we live in a world that is increasingly secular. “Secular” means “of the age,” and more and more the world around us is rejecting the spiritual reality in favor of the physical. To continue on our spiritual path, we are called to leave behind the secular view of the world and fully commit to the spiritual. It is very much a world with a different set of rules and priorities than the ones we are used to.
To enter this world we must get past those Threshold Guardians we have spoken of. But for this journey those guardians are obstacles of our own creation, and they are overcome with faith and determination. And when we do that, when we overcome those guardians, we grow stronger because we no longer waste our energy on artificial barriers that block our progress.
Crossing the Threshold, and immersing ourselves into this new world signals a commitment. We transition from the first act of our story to the second. We move from Discernment to Formation. This requires of us such a deep commitment, that we may appear to have died to the world we left behind.
Remember the story of the prophet Jonah. He is called by God but he refuses the Call. He runs from God and boards a ship, sailing in the opposite direction. The ship is caught in a violent and terrible storm and Jonah finally surrenders himself to God’s will. He allows himself to be thrown overboard where a great fish swallows him whole. For all appearances, he was dead at that point. But he was not dead. Over the course of three days in the belly of the great fish, Jonah comes to accept God’s call. When he does that, God commands the beast to spit Jonah up on dry land, allowing him to fulfill the purpose God created him for.
Now, having moved into the second act of the journey, our story really gets moving.
© 2018 Lawrence Klimecki
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