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Thin Spaces and a Time to Breathe

Suddenly, it was the end of October – which means, depending on which voices clamor the loudest in your own household, the commemoration of Martin Luther’s reform of western Christendom, with its trumpet call sounding “A Mighty Fortress” or the Eve of All Saints Day or Hallowe’en, with its even louder call for “tricks or treats” and ghastly visitations at the door, wearing costumes and begging for those “treats,” lest a householder trying to cheat the beggars from their due lest they be forced to endure whatever ever “tricks” said person in costume who had been so cheated might choose to foist on the householder. Then, the following weekend, we honored the oldest festival in all of Christendom, “All Saints,” in which we remember those in our widespread company of family and friends who have died in the last year.  


In the Lutheran-Anglican-Roman Catholic segment of Christianity we sometimes speak of these days as the time of “thin spaces” – they include the Hispanic traditions of “the Day of the Dead” – and the point is that those we remember who are no longer with us from day to day on earth seem nonetheless to be with us in memory, and at this time of year that memory might seem especially palpable somehow.  


My point is, this is a time that is in some ways festive and in other ways quite weighty, and the week from Reformation Sunday to All Saints Sunday is not merely a sequence of discrete occasions, but a group of days weighted with much significant memory. It’s not a coincidence that this was the day chosen for Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day. And then … there are a Sunday or two of respite. And then, after a moment to catch breath, comes the holiday of Thanksgiving, and, again, immediately, the season of Advent – which is supposed to be a time of quiet, meditative anticipation for Christmas. Supposed to be … but in our culture, the days of Yuletide Revelry have begun.


Last Saturday I was present at a session which is intended to train a few of us in the technological aspects for making presentations. Most of you know that I do not feel at all competent, at best, with information technology, even after about forty years of working at it … so the trainer sat next to me, and then said, “breathe.” Another thing that I still don’t do well, after more than seventy-plus years of breathing, one inhaled-exhaled breath at a time. It would be easy to say, “remember the reason for the season” which is a common admonition in this oh-so-very-busy-time to keep our priorities clear. True enough. But remember that the first priority is to breathe: and it is in the very breath we take, inhale-exhale, that we meet the God who comes to us as Immanuel, a baby, who one day, took a first breath of air, and joined the human race.  


Blessings in this end-of-October-and-we’re-off-to-the-races thin-space time of year and don’t forget to breathe!

The Rev. Allen Heggen


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