We all know what “subliminal” means, but we don’t talk much about things being “liminal,” on the threshold. Well-conceived worship spaces around the world understand the need for some liminal space between the everyday world and the world of the spirit. In Japanese shrines, for example, you enter through the torii [gate] and walk to the ritual washing station before climbing the steps of the shrine to enter the sacred space.
We experience something of the same with many of our finest churches and cathedrals. Walking across the parvis [piazza] in front of Notre Dame in Paris can help prepare you to meet God within. More recently, the designers of Our Lady of the Angels in L.A. understood the need for liminal space by designing a plaza you cross, before climbing stairs to the main doors and, once inside, walking along a deep wide corridor that leads you to make a right turn into the worship space.
We all need liminal spaces in our lives. What are yours?