John English, SJ (1)
(1924 - 2004  R.I.P.)  

The dance or the grand musicale of the universe
expressing the life of the Trinity. 
What a performance for humanity!

click on photo to enlarge

click on photo to enlarge

The Song And Dance Of The Universe
          The above photograph recalls what a magnificent sight are the heavens on a clear night! The myriads of planets, stars, and galaxies, as they move across the heavens before us! Psalmists, troubadours, poets, have all expressed amazement at the sight. The photo is an example of the magnificence, size, etc. of the universe. True scientists (as opposed to technicians) and true theologians (as opposed to catechists) in spite of their differences are united in awe and wonder before this sight as they seek to know and understand the heavens. We read in Psalm 8: "When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are humans that you are mindful of them, mortals that you should care for them. You have made them little less than angels, and crowned them with glory and honour." (Ps 8:3-5)(2) Psalm139 suggests that God (Trinity) is in a dance with creation: "Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right shall hold me fast." (Ps 139:10) Gerald Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet of the 19th century also was captivated by the sight of the heavens as he writes in, That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and the Comfort of the Resurrection, "Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows flaunt for, then chevy on an air-built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs they throng; they glitter in marches."(3) Scientists have made it possible for us to view the heavens in a new and fascinating way. Time and time again we are presented with images from telescopes and space stations of the circling of planets and gases in the universe. Astronomers tell us that the circling of gases eventually leads to the creation of new stars and planets. They tell us that the universe is constantly expanding. We think of the scripture text: "I make all things new" (Rev 21:5) This activity is like a choral dance. Scientists (mathematicians) are caught up in this marvel as they study motion, sound and light in the movement of the stars, the variations of light and sound coming from beyond our earth.

          The great spiritual writer, Thomas Merton challenges us: "To hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance ...when we see the migrating birds ... when we see children in a moment when they are really children ... For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. ...Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.(4)

          Theologians speak of a dance in the Trinity. We find the following words in a discussion about love in the New Dictionary of Theology: "...the love which is God emerged more clearly as the trinity of Father, Son and Spirit engaged in Perichoresis, a permanent dance of love into which human beings are invited and empowered to join. The love which is God has been made available to all willing to join the dance, willing to draw others into the dance, willing to make place for others in the dance."(5) John O'Donnell develops the image of perichoresis in a book on the Trinity: "The concept of the Trinitarian God who is love implies the eternal newness according to which the eternal Lord is always his own future. God and love never grow old. Their being remains that of coming."(6) Both scientists and theologians would insist that the dance is always new. The perichoresis in the Trinity is an image of the dynamic activity within the Trinity that overflows into the dance of the heavens, a display that generates wonder and awe.

          The above photograph of the heavens invites scientists and theologians to consider our existence in ever new and expanding ways. The images, sounds and movements of our universe attract us to wonder, amazement, dance and song. These interior and exterior delights are the common ground of scientist and theologians.

          The following article can be used in three ways. The first as stated in Endnote 1; is to help scientists and theologians with a dialogue that will deal with the problem that results from philosophical differences regarding spirit and matter. A second use is to assist the reader to gain a heightened sense of one's own creaturehood and a third, is to govern one's life with this awareness.

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-- Endnotes --

1. Two reasons have led me to write this article. The first is the efforts of Michael Buckley, SJ, to address the causes of atheism in today's culture. He developed the reason in various writings in Theological Studies. The second reason is my discussions with two professional biologists, Lois and Kuruvila Zachariah of Conestoga College and Waterloo University in Waterloo, Canada. They introduced me to the writings of Rupert Sheldrake and other scientists with a post-modern bent. Together we have composed Twenty-Four Spiritual Exercises for the New Story of Universal Communion. These are published by Progressio, Rome, 2003.

2. Scriptural references are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990.

3. Hopkins in The Penguin Poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins: Penguin Books, 1961. Pp. 65-66.

4. Merton, Thomas, OCSO, New Seeds of Contemplation, Penguin Books (New Directions Paperback), NY. 1972. pp 296-7.

5. See the article "Love" in the New Dictionary of Theology, ed. ... Collegville, MN, 1993. P.

6. Jungel, Eberhard: God as the Mystery of the World, Edinburgh, T. Clark, 1983, pp.24ff, quoted by O'Donnell, John J.:The Mystery of the Triune God, Sheed and Ward, London, 2001. p. 170.


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