Dancing with God: The Christmas Gospel Procession
This article by Diana Macalintal originally appeared in Eucharistic Ministries, #237, December 2003.
“[I]n Christianity God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
When people dance, life happens. Think of wedding receptions and a couple’s first dance. Remember high school prom and the blush of first love. Go back to your first kick in your mother’s womb, the twisting and turning into birth, the rhythmic breathing and choreographed movements of midwives, doctors, family, and friends.
Even in death, dance brings life. After a car bomb in Baghdad killed over 100 people, Muslim mourners filled the streets, processing together, flogging their own backs in a communal dance of grief. Recall, too, the slow and somber march of mourners who lined up to say a final goodbye to Cardinal Joseph Bernadin of Chicago. We begin and we end human life dancing.
The earliest Church fathers thought of the Trinity as a dance between Father, Son, and Spirit. This dance not only brought life, but was life. It not only expressed love, but was love. The three persons of the Trinity moved together in unity but were not bound into uniform lockstep with the others. They surrendered themselves to the flow of the dance, and in so doing, were able to be Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. For these Church fathers, the Trinity was not a mathematical formula but a dynamic and intimate mutual interpenetration.
At Christmas, we remember the God who became a dancer in human flesh, moving with grace through the joys and sorrows of human life and even human death. We give honor and glory to the transcendent God who honored and glorified human bodies by becoming one like us, clothed in flesh, compelled to move, lifting arms in praise, bending knees in service, walking journeys together and alone. We proclaim the Word-made-Flesh first by dancing, lifting the Gospel Book high for all to see, bending low in profound bow, walking from table of the Lord to table of the Word, and signing the very bodies which now clothe the Word in the world today. Every time we proclaim the Gospel, we dance with the One who first invited us to dance so that life may happen.
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