“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28.19)
I know it because I saw them happen. Let me mention just one!
This Benedictine monastery in Italy was dying. Only six nuns remained. Not one single vocation for the last forty years! They decided to close their beautiful monastery up in the hills and join another community. The Mother Superior agreed ‘Yes’, she said, ‘but first let us give God a chance! Let me refurbish seven rooms in the novitiate – fix, paint, remodel seven rooms and have new furniture installed …”Everyone thought she was crazy.
While this refurbishing was going on, a priest recently ordained, happened to pass by and celebrate a mass with his friends in this monastery. At the end of the mass, Mother repeated the request she had made over and over again to hundreds of priests, “if you know of a girl who is interested in joining cloistered life, please let us know”. The Father agreed but he forgot all about it.
Until one day he got a phone call from Holland. This couple, itinerant catechists within the Neocatechumenal way, was asking whether he knows of a good cloistered community which would welcome a woman who is thinking seriously of joining religious life. “No”, replied hastily this priest, “in my parish we have no religious communities…” Then he suddenly remembered. “By the way, let me correct this statement! There is a community of cloistered Benedictine nuns but they are badly off and all are very old and …” He was cut short. “Let us give them and her a try!”
A couple of weeks later, Father went at the train station to pick this woman coming from Holland who wanted to start this new adventure. She shared with him her experience and how she has been living this initiation into faith in her parish, called the Neocatechumenal way, and how her vocation became more and more clear listening to the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharist in this small community.
Father was very skeptical. He just could not see how a young secularized woman could possibly fit with six old cloistered nuns. He made sure she understood the situation. “They are all old, two of them are sick, they are very nice and welcoming but you know .. old age and senility and…. Anyway, give yourself a chance of one week. If you cannot make it, I understand. Just give me a phone call and I will come and get you back. But hold tight for one week!”
When three days later, he received a phone call from the monastery, he was not surprised. “I knew it! She did not even manage to make it for seven days!” So imagine his surprise when he heard a jubilant voice on the other side of the line. “Father I am very happy! Here I have found home. I want to stay. This is where God is calling me!!!”
Today this monastery is overflowing with vocations. All coming from the Neocatechumenal way. There is even a girl from Toronto who recently joined them. They all look so happy and so young and so … beautiful! I was there in September for the clothing of one of the new vocations. She was all dressed in white as a bride going to meet her bridegroom – the most handsome of all the sons of Adam!
Yes, God still makes miracles. I was thinking how little we think about God. Even when we speak with Him, our focus many times is on us and not on Him. We hardly ever look at His face…
The Church tells us many fantastic things about our God. She tells us he is not a loner, a recluse but a family! They are three. They are constantly inter-relating. An interactive family. The Orthodox Church uses the word peri-choresis which translated literally means ‘dancing around’ (peri – around; choresis – dancing). The Trinity is three persons dancing around. Three dancers in one dance!
Irreverent? No! God is a divine dance where the Father goes out and gives all (wisdom, love, life, power). The Son moves out towards the Father and in turn passes all to the Father. The Spirit is this mutual self giving, the giving and receiving between Father and Son! These movements or “missions” within the Trinity is the intimate life of God. Perichoresis is their innermost being.
The deep insight of the Word of God in the doctrine of the Trinity is that God’s being is essentially relational – they give themselves constantly. They have an enormous capacity to share!
This is fantastic news for us! Because, if Genesis is right when it says that “God created man in the image of Himself, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27), then our own nature is “perichoretic”! In the very core and center of our being, we are made for self-giving. We live to dance!
Isn’t that great?! As Maureen C. Hensley puts it :
Lord, in this dance called life, You have always danced with me,
You guided me where You willed, sometimes I faltered trying to follow.
But you held me so lovingly and gently, I sensed where I should be.
When I was young the music was fast, You and I danced apart,
With Infinite Love You allowed me to dance alone, but never out of Your reach.
As I grew older, I sought to be in your arms, instantly You reached Yours out to me.
Gently You led me to Your music in my soul, the dance began to slow.
Now in the autumn of my life, as the lights go down and the music slowly fades,
Take me in your arms, in this final dance, and waltz with me once more.
We can dance
However, Genesis reveals to us a very deep reality which we know too well. Man sinned. His perichoretic nature was wounded. The divine image was distorted. We find it so hard to dance!
We experience a deep slavery. We find it so difficult to share, to give. We know that it is better to help out in cleaning the kitchen, in cutting the lawn, in washing the car, in doing the odd jobs around the house… but we feel so lazy and sluggish!
Is there an opening? Can we recover our dance? Yes! In his mercy, God promised a savior, born of a woman, whose work is to restore to human beings the divine image according to which they were originally created. Jesus Christ is able to restore the dance in our heart.
Salvation means to be plunged back into the perichoictic life of the Blessed Trinity, to share once again in the very life of God, whose inmost being is mutual self-giving. Salvation means … to be able to dance again! In Christ, we are pulled back in this love exchange where we learn to do what God is!!! An unceasing circulation of love!
This is how Paul Buis, a parishioner and a friend, expressed this truth :
The Triune Dance
Creator plants His Son, the Word,
Deep in a barren womb — my heart.
He breathes His Spirit on the Seed.
Love will take hold; New Life will start!
The Living Flame of Love ignites
Within Their midst — the Divine Three.
Their dance of Perfect Love delights
My soul in its obscurity.
Creator leads the Seraphim
His Will the choreography.
Heaven and earth join in the hymn;
His Word — my soul’s soliloquy!
He transforms my heart’s rhapsody
Into His Perfect Harmony —
Heaven’s eternal psalmody:
“All praise Triumphant Trinity!”
A Carmelite Saint, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity is so exuberant. “O my God, Trinity whom I adore! Help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may bury myself in Thee, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace or draw me out of thee, O my immutable Lord! May I, at every moment, penetrate more deeply into the depths of Thy mystery! Give peace to my soul; make it Thy heaven, Thy cherished dwelling place, Thy home of rest. Let me never leave Thee there alone, but keep me there, all absorbed in Thee, in living faith, adoring Thee and wholly yielded up to Thy creative action!” (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, The Complete Works, Volume 1, p 183)
In God our Family, we can dance a perfect eternal melody!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.