Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

Holy Transitions 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

For Father Richard, liminal space transforms us when we are attentive to the presence of God in times of change: 

The Latin word limen means “threshold.” Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, in transition, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed—perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not feel “graced” in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in control.  

The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—blank tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of shadowboxing instead of ego-confirmation, struggling with the hidden side of things, and calling so-called normalcy into creative question. 

It’s no surprise then that we generally avoid liminal space. Much of the work of authentic spirituality and human development is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough that they can learn something essential and new. [1] 

We all need to consciously spend time at the thresholds of our lives, and we need wise elders to create and hold such spaces for us. Liminality is a form of holding the tension between one space and another. It is in these transitional moments of our lives that authentic transformation can happen. Otherwise, it is just business as usual and an eternally boring, status quo existence.  

Over the decades, I’ve seen the need for such liminal spaces again and again. Without some sort of guidance and reframing, we don’t understand the necessary ebb and flow of life, the ascents and descents, and the need to embrace our tears and our letting go as well as our successes and our triumphs. Without standing on the threshold for much longer than we’re comfortable, we won’t be able to see beyond ourselves to the broader and more inclusive world that lies before us.  

Revelation 3:20 tells us that Christ stands at the door and knocks. Too many of us want to show up at the doorway looking prim and proper and perfect. We stuff our egos and anxieties in the front hall closet so Christ won’t see them when we open the door. But Christ isn’t showing up to see our perfect selves. Instead, we are invited into a real, deep, transformative conversation, there on the threshold between who we are and who we can become, if we are willing to let go of what holds us back. [2] 


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2004), 135–138. 

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, introduction to Oneing 8, no. 1, Liminal Space (Spring 2020): 17–18. Available in print and PDF download

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—McEl Chevrier, Untitled. CAC Staff, Exercise in Grief and Lamentation. Jessie Jones, Untitled. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

During my pregnancy, I looked forward to reading the Daily Meditations each morning—they were great company.… Being pregnant, I felt a kind of double liminality: awaiting new life, and also witnessing the world transitioning from an old order to a new consciousness. My 17-hour non-medicated labor was intensely painful. During the last hour of birth, I actually doubted that there was a child inside me. Finally, my son swam beautifully in the water just like a little fish and into my arms, pink and healthy. I fear our world is also going through this painful transition through the narrow birth canal where the false self doesn’t have much space to move. I wonder if our world is ready for that labor. I wonder if we’re ready of what comes after birth, too: remaining vigilant, patient, compassionate, and loving as we welcome a fragile new order and care for it like a new infant. —Ashley M. 

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.