Report on the talk by Rev. Reingard Knausenberger, “Living in- and crossing Thresholds: What does it take and why Confirmation is important”
by John-Peter Gernaat
The Gospel reading this morning was from Luke 7: 11-17, the raising of the young man from Nain. This is the archetypal threshold experience.
At Ascension Christ is lifted into the sphere of the clouds and his Coming is in the sphere of the clouds. This sphere of the clouds is a transitory space, clouds exist for a time and then vanish. It is also the atmosphere that allows life to exist on the earth. It is in this life-sphere that the Christ appears – in between the earth and outer space.
It is in the in between that life is given meaning. Goethe described this in the life processes: germinating, unfolding, growing, flowering and concluding. A threshold is a process that leads to a conclusion. We discussed the threshold of the 21st year of life. Most people have a definitive experience between the ages of 20 and 23 that brings about an awareness of themselves. We experience many thresholds in our biography. These are spiritual shifts that we experience in conscious life. It is these shifts that lead to development. These shifts are an experience of a birth or a death.
There is one area of life that does not experience these transitions that lead to death: these are the man-made products of our modern life that have fallen out of the sphere of life and will not decay, e.g. plastics and nuclear waste. They are a burden to our society.
There are also things that occur in our soul life that risk falling out of the sphere of life if we do not resolve them so that they too go through a process of birth and death. Wherever in our lives we leave things unfinished they bind our energy.
Our sacraments all have a beginning, an unfolding and a conclusion, a clear ending. The sacraments are all transitions. The first is the Sacrament of Baptism. Birth is a re-orientation to the earthly world. We need to learn to focus. It requires concentrated energy of the infant in its first year to lift itself out of the force of gravity and find the inner and outer balance and coordination to stand upright. Rudolf Steiner said that it is the Christ’s power that enables the child to rise up and stand. The first memory is the sense of having landed in a constitution that will support the incarnating soul. The parents hold the memory of the child until it has its own first memory when the spark of consciousness arises in the child. In the Gospel reading of today the Lord gives the young man back to his mother. It was a new birth for the young man of which his mother carries the memory. The Sacrament of Baptism calls on spiritual beings before the child’s name is called out to the world. There is a preparation in the spiritual and earthly world to support who this “I am” is to be.
When the child awakens to self-awareness it becomes aware of death. Up to the age of 7 years we have built our body, but then our body becomes a journey towards death. This is unconscious in childhood but becomes a conscious reality in puberty.
The experience of puberty is one of our physical constitution changing without our permission. Neither our awareness nor our experience can grasp the changes. It is really like being three years old again in terms of the development of our constitution. A lot of energy must be invested as we find a place within ourselves where we can stand up. This process begins subtly and then suddenly it is clearly evident. The young person must find their morality. Before, as children, they used the morality they were taught. The young person also learns that they can lie and can hide from themselves. The world places an expectation on the young person to be an adult, but constitutionally the young person is again only three years old as the soul space opens up within them, in the same way as the toddler experienced the physical world opening up for them. The young person experiences heaven and hell opening up in their soul without the tools to deal with the experiences.
It is therefore important that the young teenager experiences many things at this age and is accompanied in these experiences. Learning to deal with a wide variety of experiences becomes a treasure chest and the young person can bring these experiences to cognition as they approach the next threshold at age 21. This is especially important in the experiences that lead to growth: how one deals with the things that do not work (failure). The person then has tools for adult life. When we take the reins of our life in our twenties, we have the experience that we can always rise up again no matter the experience.
The soul power of youth is strong and untamed. The task of the adults accompanying the youth is the ability to bring control to their experiences.
Up until puberty the soul has been engaged in building the body. The body was gifted by the parents and the child transforms this body into its own, based on the blueprint it was gifted. At puberty the soul is freed for the future development of the individual. The soul is linked to the “I” and needs to be anchored – confirmed – into the power of the Christ “I” that is our higher self. We can then experience the freedom to do things that lead us astray and come back again into ourselves. The young person experiences this as rising up and standing for themselves at the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Sacrament of Confirmation confirms the ability to grasp themselves and connect to the deeper self.
In life we experience adversary powers as resistances in life. Human nature is to give in. The spiritual power to help us go through the things that resist us ask to be invited in. Confirmation provides access to these spiritual powers.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is a gift to the young person with the community standing behind this gift. It provides an orientation for the person to anchor themselves to.
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