Sacred Dance

Lovers know it. Would-be mystics discover it. The Song of Songs celebrates it. It is the Sacred Dance. What is it? Putting ourselves gradually at the disposal of the beloved. Gifting ourselves, yielding ourselves, surrendering ourselves to the beloved’s invitation to union. We must dance this Sacred Dance, for it is our surrender that leads us deeply into our love union, or spiritual communion or mystical union.

Why is it sacred? Because the Sacred Dance is a psychic-spiritual drama between God and ourselves. As human beings, we experience a mysterious hunger for relationship with God. We intuit that we are mystics at heart. We use our strongest creative force—our power of desire—to seek union. We pray that the Spirit of Love (Divine Eros) will gift us with Divine encounter. Our hearts slip gradually into surrender to the Spirit’s invitation. The Sacred Dance is all about desire and our gradual surrender into Divine union.

Self-emptying. There is another fact of life that lovers and would-be mystics discover. Before they can dance the Sacred Dance of surrender to the beloved, they must first experience self-emptying. They must strip themselves of their masks, behind which they hide to enhance their false self. They must experience psychic nakedness.

How do we experience this self-emptying before our God? We contemplate the dialectic that is at the heart of our spiritual lives. We are programmed for relationship with an Infinite Being—an Infinite Lover at that—but we are powerless to live that relationship. We are absolutely dependent on the Spirit’s gift to enter into union with the Infinite Lover. We pray to the Spirit for this gift.

We even need the Spirit, who is the energy source at the core of our beings, to awaken our desire for Divine union. We have the Spirit’s standing invitation for union but we are usually unaware of it. And we can’t even surrender ourselves to the Infinite Lover on our own. Most importantly, the Spirit only acts when we have expressed our powerlessness and we have experienced our psychic nakedness. Then we can dance the Sacred Dance of surrender.

New Paradigm. Our Eucharistic Celebration—Jesus’ Love Meal—is a paradigm of the Sacred Dance for all our spiritual activities. Here we can follow the steps of the Sacred Dance. Before Jesus’ Love Meal even begins, we must experience self-emptying and our powerlessness on our own to encounter God. Then we can respond to Jesus’ invitation to the Sacred Dance by offering our gifts of bread and wine, symbol of our lives, symbol of our desire to be consecrated for sacrifice with him.

Jesus’ invitation is climaxed by a Communal Act of Love when we receive Jesus and our sisters and brothers as Eucharist, and they receive us as bread and wine. We are brought into Mystical Communion, Mystical Union with Jesus and with the community to bring about the Beloved Community.

But note: along with this ritual of action in our Eucharistic Celebrations, we have experienced a ritual of the heart. We have danced the Sacred Dance of putting ourselves at Jesus’ disposal to prepare our hearts for self-giving, gifting ourselves to be consecrated with Jesus, and surrendering ourselves with Jesus in our Communal Act of Love, which includes all our sisters and brothers, without exception. In this Mystical union, the crucible of Divine love is created. The Spirit plunges us into that crucible where the Spirit works at our personal transformation to create the Beloved Community.

Wall Flower. What happens when we decide to sit out the Sacred Dance before our spiritual activities such as our Eucharistic Celebrations, spiritual reading, praying the Office, centering prayer, faith sharing through Scripture, praying the Rosary or other devotions? We engage our computer-like minds which are designed for analysis, judgments, comparisons, for living self-centered lives, and unfortunately building up our False Self. Our minds want control, not the surrender required for our spiritual activities.

Worse, our minds disengage our hearts. The result: We don’t do the spiritual spiritually:

  • Our Eucharistic Celebrations become a church service rather than a transforming experience.
  • Our spiritual reading becomes an intellectual exercise. We purchase the latest recommendation on the best seller list with good intentions. But we don’t have the spiritual desire for self-transformation—the only goal of all our spiritual activities.
  • Our prayer becomes routine. We recite only words. But we don’t experience the vibrations of the heart that the words should impart.
  • Our Scripture sharing becomes an analysis of the text or a meaningless exchange of thoughts—with no revelations of our hearts or our faith.
  • Sharing our spiritual life becomes an embarrassing encounter, rather than a supporting experience for the faith of our sisters and brothers.

Passionate Centering. Elsewhere we have emphasized the importance of the practice of centering down. Indeed, it is the practice that should precede all our spiritual activities. We have defined it as the conscious gathering of our mind, heart and will to open us to the Divine Center within us.

Now we have recommended adding a new dimension to this practice of centering down—experiencing a psychic-spiritual drama. It is the twofold spiritual activity of self-emptying and dancing the Sacred Dance before all our spiritual activities. First, it is experiencing our psychic nakedness. We strip ourselves of our self-centeredness. We recognize our powerlessness as a human being to encounter the Infinite Lover. It is an act of humility, being honest with ourselves that without the Spirit we can’t do the spiritual spiritually.

Second, we look to the Spirit who is Divine Love in action to gift us with the capacity to dance the Sacred Dance of gifting ourselves, yielding ourselves and surrendering ourselves—before we enter our spiritual activities.

Passionate centering down helps us to do the spiritual spiritually! Passion is quite appropriate. After all, we are attempting to encounter our Infinite Lover.


Toward Spirited Self-Image

How should our belief that God dwells within us, revealing us to ourselves, calling us to growth and giving of Himself, impact our attitude to-ward ourselves? We should see ourselves as caught in the weaknesses of our human condition BUT empowered by the Spirit. We should see ourselves as being wounded BUT being healed by the Spirit. We should see ourselves as being in conflict with the forces of evil BUT being guided by the Spirit. We should see ourselves as powerless BUT being gifted by the Spirit.

Further, we must hold these opposing self-images of ourselves in creative tension, not in some diluted form, but at the same time fully acknowledging our weaknesses and fully recognizing the Spirit’s empowerment. For example, like the alcoholic we must admit ardently our powerlessness, and simultaneously believe fervently that the Spirit is near and Self-giving. The result? Our opposing self-images convert one another to create a newness in us. A dynamic growth process takes place!

Wounded But Being Healed.  In Man Becoming, Gregory Baum says that no one can escape totally personal woundedness. Our human woundedness make us compulsively relive unresolved conflicts of our past. Our woundedness makes us unconsciously inflict hatred and anger on people whom we respect. Our woundedness makes us clamor for massive revenge against people whose disagreement with us is only slight. We do foolish and destructive things not simply because of our exaggerated self-love, but because of our hidden self-hatred.

However, the Gospel promise to us is that the Spirit will enable us to become healed. Embracing both our woundedness and the Spirit’s healing power in creative tension creates a deeper AWARENESS of both our woundedness and the Spirit’s call to healing.

Conflicted But Guided. Jules J, Toner, SJ writes: “Any vision of human life which does not see it as a life of conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, spirit and flesh, Christ and Satan, has lost the Scriptural vision…” He says that the great spiritual masters believe in “a personal force of evil, trying in opposition to God to make those who have turned to God to lose heart and to turn back again, or at least to give up on striving toward a life totally open to the Holy Spirit.”

However, the Spirit guides us through the conflict of our thoughts and judgments and feelings.  Living our life of conflict and guidance by the Spirit in creative tension creates a keener sense of DISCERNMENT between our inner conflicts and the Spirit’s guidance.

Powerless But Gifted.  In scripture we read: “Without Me, you can do nothing: with Me you can do all things.” Emphasizing the gift dimension of life, Baum writes: “Human existence is so deeply wounded and threatened by sin that the passage from fear to trust, from hostility to love, from ignorance to self-knowledge, from passivity to creativity, from self-centeredness to concern for others, are never purely natural events, determined by our own resources. They are always supernatural; they are always gifts.”

Living with our powerlessness and the Spirit’s giftedness in creative tension creates an ever-expanding OPENNESS to both our powerlessness and to God’s giftedness.

With God’s Spirit dwelling within us we are never exclusively human. There is both a human dimension and a divine dimension to us. Our self-image must take into account both dimensions. To ignore the divine dimension is to deny the Spirit in us. To ignore the human dimension is to live a very dangerous, naive life. The only true self-image for us is a Spirited self-image. Adopting that image changes our attitude toward ourselves as well as our attitude toward others, with whom we share our divine humanity.