The Infinite Round Dance

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Imagine an endless round dance of three persons dancing in and out of each other, dancing with a Desire they share infinitely with each other with such intense love that the three dancers are one, yet so strong is their love for each other that they desire that there also be three. The persons are not personas, as in fake faces of actors or hypocrites, neither are they rugged individualists believing in every person for oneself. These persons are pure relationship through their shared Desire of love.

This round dance could have gone on forever with nobody the wiser except for one amazing thing: the love of these three persons was so ecstatic, so explosive, that it overflowed into a world of galaxies and stars and planets and flowers and giraffes and humans with teeming brains filled with desire, all with the intent of making countless beings much the wiser for the infinite round dance.

The overflowing love of the infinite round dance required that all desires to dance be free so that humans could look at a tree and desire that tree’s fruit before receiving the fruit as a gift from the infinite dancers. When the desire flowing through humans turned into rivalry with the infinite dancers and with each other, suddenly countless trees disappeared in the conflagration, leaving only centered the few trees that drew the humans ‘desires.

As humans fought over their crossed desires and gathered only to share a desire to kill or expel a victim blamed for the violence overcoming them, the infinite dancers continued to dance through the human desires, inspiring desires to share the trees and fruits and poems and songs in tune with the Desire of the infinite dancers.  The infinite dancers poured their Desire into humans who proclaimed the Desire to others, even when they were stoned or ridiculed or cut off from the land of the living.

So strong was the Desire of the infinite dancers that with the fire and love of the other two persons, one person entered into humanity and became vulnerable to all the shared rivalrous desires that spread like a plague among humans. The Son, conceived in a human womb by the Holy Spirit, gave up his spirit when the humans he came to save chose to kill him. The Son received the spirit back as he was raised from the dead, and then forever after sends that spirit into the desires of all humans.

And so the endless round dance continues with the overflowing love of dancers’ shared Desire that all humans be ecstatically the wiser for the dance.

 

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The Holy Spirit’s Fiery Desire

outsideSupper1What is the Holy Spirit? Wrong question.  The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, not an ït.” Our difficulty in thinking of the Holy Spirit as a person is a symptom of our cultural problem of really seeing other persons as persons.

“Many terms and images are given for the Holy Spirit: a roaring wind, tongues of fire, breath, gift, counselor, consoler, teacher, guide, and the bond of love, to list a few. Some of the terms are personal, some not. This only adds to the confusion unless we get beneath the impersonal images to realize that breath requires a breather, a person’s temperament can be fiery, and a bond of love can’t really love unless that bond is a person who actually loves. Teaching and guiding, though done with personal agency, can be mechanical if they are only conveying information and or getting us from one place to another.

The Holy Spirit adds to our difficulty simply by being so shy. Jesus shows us the Father, the Holy Spirit shows us Jesus. Who shows us the Holy Spirit? Look behind you and the Holy Spirit is still behind you. Look deeply in yourself and the Holy Spirit is deeper yet. If we want to know the Holy Spirit, we have to be as shy, as hidden as this Person. Most of us think it important to be more assertive than that.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is hidden in much the same way as mimetic desire is hidden. (See Human See, Human Want.) Our imitation of other peoples ‘desires occurs below our conscious awareness. The Holy Spirit does the same. Is there a connection between the two? As our teacher and guide, the Holy Spirit conveys the Desire of God.  More than that, the Holy Spirit is the Desire of God. What is this Desire of God? The image of a fiery wind burning all of God’s people without consuming us gives us a hint of God’s fundamental Desire: that we all may be one as the Father and the Son are one. (There is the Holy Spirit hiding again! The Spirit is just as much one with the Father and the Son as the other two Persons of the Trinity.)

Let us try thinking of the Holy Spirit as the Gatherer with fiery arms of Love. Mimetic desire unites us with other people whether we like it or not, or will it or not. Mimetic desire deepens our lives when we share desires in mutually enriching ways, but when mimetic desire falls into conflict, it unites us to that person in the bad sense of being stuck together.  The Holy Spirit weaves through the swirl of other peoples’ desire with God’s Desire, teaching us and guiding us with fiery love how to fill all these desires between us with tongues of fire that deepen our communion with others beyond what words can say.

Jesus’ Escape to the Kingdom

crosswButterfliesThe Ascension is among the most puzzling festivals in the church calendar. The contradictory accounts of the event are a puzzle but one thing the accounts by Luke and John’s Gospel share is to connect Jesus’ departure with his sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come to lead them into the truth. What truth did the disciples need that they hadn’t learned already from their teacher? Did Jesus have to leave before the disciples could hear the Holy Spirit?

During his ministry, Jesus warned his disciples three times that “he would be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” These warnings came precisely at the times the disciples thought that a Maccabean-like revolution against the Romans was just around the corner: when Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, right after the Transfiguration, and when James and John asked if they will sit at Jesus’ right and left in his kingdom.

After his Resurrection, Jesus tried again to get across to the disciples what his kingdom was really all about. When Clopas glumly said that he and his companion had hoped that Jesus “was the one who was to redeem Israel,” Jesus, not yet recognized by them, rebuked them for their slowness of heart in believing what “the prophets have declared.” Then he “interpreted to them all the things about himself in all the scriptures.” Later, Jesus appeared to the twelve and explained that everything written about him in “the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled. “Since the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” was used to refer to the whole Hebrew Bible, the special mention of the psalms is significant. The psalms include many laments over persecution from the standpoint of the victim. Jesus went on to say that when the scriptures say that the Messiah was “to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,” it means that “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed” in Jesus’ name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Proclaiming repentance and forgiveness is a very different proposition from starting a revolt to restore the kingdom to Israel.

When, in spite of hearing this teaching for forty days, the disciples asked their Risen Lord: “Is this the time when you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus must have banged his head against the nearest tree and cried out: “I’m out of here!” This repeated question may have convinced Jesus that the disciples were never going to stop asking him to restore kingdom of Israel as long as he was walking on the earth with them. Maybe Jesus was planning all along to leave after forty days; maybe he planned to stick around indefinitely but this question was the last straw.

Jesus’s Ascension put paid to any notion of his leading a second Maccabean-type revolution. The disciples were left with no choice but to try doing what Jesus told them to do when he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jesus’ kingdom is to preach repentance and forgiveness to the whole world until everybody has repented, been forgiven, and has forgiven everybody.

Hospitality Initiative

WilliamGuestsChurch1On May 3-4 I will be attending the Hospitality Initiative hosted at Oakland University in Oakland, MI. The convener is Charles Mabee, a scholar who works with the thought of René Girard. This is a multi-faith gathering where papers from a wide variety of spiritual traditions will be represented by the presentation of papers. I will be presenting a brief paper called “Mimetic Hospitality: Guests and Community in the Rule of St. Benedict.” Some of the content overlaps with my blog post Cleaning up our Unclean Acts which introduces some of the thoughts I develop in this paper. You can read my paper here.