A Catholic priest from Malta was leading a retreat on Rumi, the 13th Century Muslim mystic…
Sounds kind of like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? It is, in fact, a way of beginning to describe the content of the last day of my time of R&R this last month: sitting at the feet of Fr. Philip Chircop at the Cenacle Retreat Center as he led a day retreat creatively entitled “Ruminations.” (Fr. Chircop’s was and is the impressive gift of taking those things which at first seem so foreign to us and helping us to find our home in them… and their home in us.)
As a way of introducing participants to the sage’s writings, we were invited to draw sayings of his from a basket and share them with the group. You can imagine the “God Wink” I felt when I initially scanned my slip and saw the word “dance” (for me, that key metaphor of life and living) throughout:
Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you’re perfectly free.
No sooner had “dance” caught my eye (and heart), though, and I was shocked by the “thorny” words and images attached to it: broken, bandages, fighting, blood. WHAT????!?!?! No, I want my dancing to be fun and easy and joyful and…
My initial inclination was to ponder, “aaybe, it’s a way of saying we need to dance when the bad times come.” You know, “singing in the rain!”
But, then, it hit me. As much as I want dancing to be easy… As much as I want life and living and relating and freedom to be easy, they aren’t. (What little time I’ve given to “Dancing with the Stars,” for example, it inevitably underscores the panting and sweating and the muscle pulls and the falls that come with dancing. Professionals make it look easy. But, as in so many other areas, it takes a lot of work and energy to make things look easy!)
Far from corrupting and invalidating the metaphor of life as a “dance,” bloody bandages and blistered feet only serve to confirm and further establish the metaphor of authentic life and living as a dance and dancing. Though we may not like it or want it, this facet of the metaphor nonetheless highlights that essential truth: the greater and fuller the dance and freedom, the deeper and broader the discipline, sacrifice, and struggle.
Here, in his wisdom, Fr. Chircop would guide us to a Gospel parallel. Without his assistance, I find myself embracing the cross… and more especially Jesus’ teaching: “unless a seed of wheat dies, it remains alone but if it dies then it will bloom and create a great harvest!”
Just one more paradox to embrace. “Bloody. Good!”