My first “unofficial” date with my wife came at a homecoming dance at the University of Southern Mississippi. In the midst of a night of swing dancing, our friendship developed into something more substantial. She tells me that I duped her because I lured her in with dancing and, over time, became an old “fuddy-dud.” I don’t know what happened. Maybe I got self-conscious. Maybe I got lazy. Maybe life just got busy and I let it slip. Somewhere along the way, my dancing shoes got used less and less.
When ancient theologians were trying to describe the nature of God, they found it quite difficult. How do you go about describing an infinite being in finite words and thought? How do you speak of someone so grand and incomprehensible in ways accessible to the average person?
In response, theologians used the term “perichoresis” to refer to the nature of of Trinity. Jonathan Marlowe likens it to the dancing seen at a Greek wedding. Many times, there are not just two dancers but three or more. Moving in circles, they weave in and out of one another in an intricate and beautiful pattern. For the really good dancers, their perfect rhythm and simultaneous movement give the impression that the many have become one. In the blur of the dance, their individual identities have been swallowed up in the whole.
Marlowe states, “The early church fathers and mothers looked at that dance (perichoresis) and said, ‘That’s what the Trinity is like.’ It’s a harmonious set of relationship in which there is mutual giving and receiving. This relationship is called love, and it’s what the Trinity is all about. The perichoresis is the dance of love.”
This Sunday, the Church will celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost celebrates the gift and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It celebrates what Richard Rohr calls the “Divine Dance” — the movement and rhythm of God’s love which the Spirit invites us to join. To live and move in sync with God, with one another, and with all creation is the ultimate goal of the spiritual life.
The trouble is that many of us have forgotten the steps to this dance. We didn’t do it on purpose. We could point to the countless ways that sin muffles the melody of the Divine song. We could blame it on the deep divisions and rending of the social fabric we’ve seen in our communities. We could attribute it to the fact that we’ve been apart from one another for a significant portion of the past year.
Whatever the reason, it seems that we’ve gotten a bit rusty — our rhythm a bit off and our steps a bit out of sync. Maybe the good news from the CDC last week is a call, beckoning us all to dust off our dancing shoes and limber up our stiff muscles. It’s Pentecost, after all, and I can hear the Spirit inviting us to join the Divine Dance once again.