Humanity, says Richard Rohr, is a perfect rhyme for what Christianity, trying to express the inexpressible, calls the holy trinity. This human dance we’re all in reflects a mysterious divine dance, one that we notice on our best days. Finding the sweet spot where contemporary science meets ancient mysticism, and theology meets poetry, The Divine Dance sketches a beautiful choreography for a life well-lived. In our joy or our pain, true life is always relational, a flow, a dance. (And was always meant to be.) —Praise by Bono, U21
“GINGER ROGERS did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” Ann Richards’s comment pertly reminds us that, though for some dance is a technically demanding occupation, for most of us dance is something we watch, a Strictly spectacle that we either enviously admire or watch at a wedding maybe, embarrassed, with clenched anatomy.
When it comes to imagining God, many envision a being “out there” somewhere, a similarly critical spectator of the world with a particular interest in morality. This being can quickly get sabotaged by unowned prejudices and then presented as our personal agenda’s convenient ambassador. Or some, giving up on the lack of traces to be found of such an objective and loving reality, conclude that God is nothing but a word used to externalise and ritualise the better parts of the human heart.
In this new book by the internationally acclaimed writer Richard Rohr, with Mike Morrell, we are invited to stop thinking about God as a distant and slightly shifty human-spotter, or as an enchanted but untrue tale told by the weak or uncritical. God, for Rohr and Morrell, is not a panel judge of reality’s dance, nor some airy sprite in the universal arena of what is. God is the very dance itself: Trinity.
The authors begin by asking whether the idea of God as Trinity has been missing in action for about 17 centuries: “If Trinity is supposed to describe the very heart of the nature of God, and yet it has almost no practical or pastoral implications in most of our lives . . . if it’s even possible that we could drop it tomorrow and it would be a forgettable, throwaway doctrine . . . then either it can’t be true or we don’t understand it.”
They continue on the premise of the latter. Thankfully, they don’t set out to put us all in the right once and for all, but, approaching mystery not as something you cannot understand but rather as something you can endlessly understand, they seek to make a faithful contemporary contribution to our feeble comprehension.
It is said that the political climate at the moment is such that if you’re not at the table you’re probably on the menu. The famous Rublev icon of the Trinity has three figures circling a table, and, some say, there is a place at the front of the table where there used to be a mirror, so that you had a place at the table as well. The authors here argue, however, that history has focused on the substance of things, including God, and we have failed to see that creation, including us, does not exist in isolated substances but only in relationship.
In a divinely created order, there is no such thing as a detached observer. The energy in the universe is not in protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them, and this is because “God is relationship itself.” All authentic knowledge of God is therefore participatory knowledge.
The image used constantly in these pages is that of God’s “flow”. Trying to make God love you is as pointless as trying to make a waterfall wet. What St Bonaventure called God’s “fountain fullness” is unstoppable, relentless, and free in its endless outpouring, and all as part of God’s search for “the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on earth”.
The doctrine of the Trinity should never be dry. It should be drenched with the ocean of love in which we find ourselves. Like a net in the sea, we are ourselves contained in God, even if we are not able to contain God’s full mystery in our limited minds and fractured hearts.
Language, too, is like water. If it isn’t moving, it becomes stagnant. For some, Rohr’s and Morrell’s writing will be suspiciously relevant to some modern thinking. Others will be grateful for fresh and resonant talk of an ancient beauty. Either way, here is an imaginative, provocative, and energised invitation to be renewed in the Trinitarian faith of the God who is forever beyond, beside, and within.
Review by The Revd Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. His The Splash of Words: Believing in poetry is published by Canterbury Press.
Source: Churchtimes.co.uk- June 9th 2017
- Rohr, Richard. The Divine Dance (p. 1). SPCK. Kindle Edition.