I am the first to admit that I am a hopeless romantic. I like books with happy endings, books like Pride and Prejudice, and am much less favorably disposed to books, like Tess of the D'Ubervilles, where the possibility of a happy ending is always just out of reach. In reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time earlier this year and in watching the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel, I was struck by how important balls were to the characters. These people loved to dance and, if the movie was at all a reflection of reality, they all knew how to dance very well.
I don't dance well. I once knew how to waltz, thanks to an eccentric junior high music teacher and a recording of Strauss waltzes, but I haven't waltzed in decades. I used to go square dancing with friends when I was in high school and I even learned to call a few dances, but I haven't done that in more than forty years. Even though I don't dance well, dancing still fascinates me. The ball scene in Pride and Prejudice and Gene Kelly's dancing in puddles in Singin' in the Rain are among my favorites.
Dancing is about relationships. Even Kelly's solo performance in Singin' in the Rain is an expression of the joy that Don Lockwood is experiencing in his relationship with Kathy Selden. It is no wonder then that the metaphor of dancing has been used by theologians to describe the Trinity. Beginning with Gregory of Nazianzus in the 4th century, perichoresis has been a word used to describe the relationships within the Trinity. The word can be translated as a round dance suggesting that the relationships of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not static but dynamic, fluid like the movements in a dance.
In the Incarnation, the Triune God has invited us to join in the dance, to "participate in the divine nature," (2 Peter 1:4) and "to be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19) This dance is not a solo performance, nor even a dance that is just God and me. It is a dance in which my partners are the members of the Body of Christ, first in its most local expression, but ultimately in its widest expression, drawing me into relationship with people I don't particularly like, with people whom I have hurt and who have hurt me, with saints in heaven and on earth. But is also a dance in which my partners are those of other faiths or no faith at all, as well as all creatures great and small, all creation. We are all part of the world which is beloved of God, of the creation which God calls good, the creation that is redeemed in Christ.
In this dance I am perhaps a bit less clumsy, but I still step on the feet of my partners. I still hurt people, by sins of commission and omission, and I still do harm to this wonderful creation, acting too often as if I am its owner and not simply a steward. The dance, to our joy, is not dependent upon us, upon our always getting the steps right. It is dependent upon God, it is a dance of Grace alone, and God invites us again and again to join the dance in faith.