Today is Holy Saturday, the liminal space between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Limen is the Latin word for threshold – where time stands still and both everything and nothing are happening. In the scripture, today is the day Mary, the Mother of God, returns home broken. And, like her, so many of us are home now too – grieving, afraid, and uncertain.
I am a member of Spiritual Directors International, and, like many organizations, it has been more active than ever in recent weeks. In one webinar, we were asked where we, as Spiritual Directors, are struggling. My answer was a reflection of my life, and I believe the lives of so many right now.
How, in a time of such crisis, do we balance pragmatic guidance with more sublime but equally needed spiritual wisdom? In my even asking of the question, I found the answer. Just do both. Tend to the soul and the matters at hand.
The matters at hand…
This phrase came to me recently from a beloved friend who’s husband has cancer. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, she was struggling to care for him while also managing their daily life. She wrote about the necessary but also relieving work of “tending to the matters at hand,” and I remembered that matter is derived from the Latin word mater, which means mother.
In Shiatsu Massage, there is a technique called The Mother Hand. It’s the following of one hand as a comforting presence behind the hand that is doing the work. As Ben Brown from Hand + Temple Massage describes:
“I didn’t invent it, nor did my teachers, but we acknowledge and use it. It comes from the natural place where mothers seem to live. It’s the gentle firm touch that says I have you, I’ll hold you even as I help push you forward in the world. It guides you through narrow paths and calms you when it’s really hard, and sometimes it’s just there to say I remember you as you are – perfect and beautiful.”
Mary, the steadfast, the mother of all mother hand’s, stayed with her son through death and carried him from cross to tomb. I have always thought of her most on this day in-between. And I think of her now, and what she might want us to know, in our own hard time of silent waiting.
There is grace in doing what needs to be done. Getting on with getting on. When we tend to our matters at hand, our mother’s hand is guiding us. Holiness moves equally in the low and high places – behind, between, and among us.