Saturday, October 24, 2015
Thin Places and Thin Times in the Bucket?
THIN TIMES and THIN PLACES Lately I have been reading about Celtic Spirituality and the concept of "thin places" and "thin times" in that tradition. Are there thin times and thin places in the Bucket? With the days shortening and the onset of Halloween we are coming to one of the "thin times" of the Celtic Year. Thin times are those times in the year when the connection between human activity and divine activity becomes less opaque to us. When we feel some possibility of communication between souls still caught in time (us) and souls that have re-entered eternity. The idea of human life as the time we spend between two eternities is a widely held one on Celtic thinking and writing. Here is how the venerable Bede describes the experience of life and our ignorance of what was before life and what may be after life on earth: “The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he im- mediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new doctrine tells us something more certain, it seems justly to be followed in our kingdom.” The season of Samhain as it was called by the Celts was the end of the harvesting season and the marking of the onset of winter. It was a time when those of us alive could communicate with the dead. The residue of this idea comes through in our celebration of Halloween and in the Christian accommodation of ALL Saints Day November 1 and All Souls Day November 2. It also erupts in the well known Mexican celebration of November 2 as The Day of the Dead. Since my mother's birthday was 28 October, I especially feel close to her this time of year and sense her presence in her Pawtucket house and belongings that she treasured and the poems that she left behind.