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Book Review: “The Divine Dance” by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell

I received a complimentary copy of Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell’s book “The Divine Dance:  The Trinity and Your Transformation” as a part of the “Speakeasy” blogging network (operated by Mike Morrell).  I am not required to write a positive review, but only to express my own honest opinions. (This information is being disclosed in accordance with regulations from the Federal Trade Commission.)

 

I have known Mike (via social media) for several years. His writing, seminars, and work as a curator   for several sites devoted to personal and societal transformation are always a challenge and joy to explore.  You can find out about Mike by clicking here now.  http://mikemorrell.org/about/

 

Fr. Richard Rohr is a Roman Catholic theologian devoted to contemplative lifestyle along the order of St. Francis of Assisi.  As such, the bulk of his ministry is directed toward the Franciscan disciplines of personal self-emptying and a ministry of radical compassion toward all, with particular emphasis on the socially marginalized.

 

Rohr serves as the academic dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation, which aims to positively impact the lives of compassionate people who are striving to change the world from a common awareness of our union with God and all creation.   Rohr is also the teacher and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation.  You can find out more about Rohr and his work by clicking here:  http://CAC.org

 

Over the last several years I have heard a great deal about Fr. Rohr, having read numerous quotes and positive references about him on numerous blogs.  He is a widely recognized leader and ecumenical teacher, much at home with Christians from both the Protestant and Roman Catholic tradition.

 

“The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation” is the first book I have read by Fr. Rohr.  It certainly will not be the last.  You will find a selection of these books at the end of this blog.

 

“The Divine Dance” invites readers to explore Trinitarian theology, but not from a starting point of   the philosophical debates and discussions that have dominated much theological inquiry over the last 2000 years.  Instead, Rohr and Morrell invite us to a Trinitarian view of God as relationship.  The theological term used most often to describe this relationship is perichoresis.  The word, which is loosely translated as “divine dance,” describes the intimate connection between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is this intimate connection – this relational love – which Rohr see as the manifestation of God’s life among us.  Rohr writes:  “Everything you have ever seen with your eyes is the self-emptying of God into multitudinous physical and visible forms.”

 

If you have visited my blog before, you know I have an affinity for such an approach to understanding the Divine.  On the HOME page of this site, I write:

“God is Love!”  So says the scripture.  As such, God is by nature relational.  God is not some abstract omni-being who is the byproduct of post enlightenment thought…God is LOVE– there must be an OTHER to be loved.  Love makes no sense if it is not expressed.  This explains the centrality of the doctrine of the Trinity.

From eternity past and into eternity future, God is Trinity:  ONE God RELATIONALLY CONNECTED and UNITED in every way as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God is Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, forever enjoying a dance of love and passion.  The Father and Son are WITH one another in relational love.  The Holy Spirit is in the middle of that love – celebrating and being a part of the relationship.

This relational Trinitarian life expresses the rational for God creating.  Love creates.  Love gives birth.  God created the world and all that is in it – including humankind – for the purpose of sharing the Trinitarian life and love of inclusion and acceptance.

What stops our participation (or our awareness of our participation) in this divine dance is sin.  Sin dams up our awareness of the Divine life’s love flowing into our own lives.  It is not that God does stops loving us.  That could never happen, since relational love is the very DNA of God.  Rather what happens is that sin (our unbelief) prevents us from reveling in the celebration of the Divine dance.

 

Rohr writes, “In our western isolation we become masters of our own shrinking Kingdoms, Empathy starves in those hermetically sealed containers of self; goodness goes there to die.”

 

Understanding God as Trinity (as relational love in which we are included) could shed some positive energy our stress fractured world.  That’s the point of this book.  It is not a philosophical argument or theological dissertation aiming to rationally prove the doctrine of the Trinity.  Rather, it is a mystical book that addressed Divine love as the source of our transformation.

 

That we need such transformation seem, for me anyways, to be beyond question.  While we are enjoying more connections across the globe due to advancement in communication technology and the advent of various social media platforms, it does not seem as though these advancements in technology have not been met with an equal level of ethical maturation.  With all this technology, we still see a rise in religiously motivated global terrorism, a move toward fascist political extremism, rampant moral decay and decadence, a mistrust of centralized governments, economic instability, and the destruction of the environment.  Despite our interconnectedness, we are not necessarily becoming more intimate and relational.  To use an age-old adage, “we are often talking at one another, not with one another.”

 

Understanding the relational love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, expressed in the motif of a “Divine Dance” to which we are invited to participation, could be the ticket to our personal transformation.  What Rohr and Morrell intend for this book is that readers see Trinitarian theology as an invitation to the Divine dance which will open our eyes to seeing the goodness of God.  They write:

 

“We see this flow in the attraction of all beauty, in all admiring, in all ecstasy, in all solidarity with any suffering. Anyone who fully allows the flow will see the Divine image even in places that have become ugly or undone. This is the universal seeing of the Trinity.”

 

Realizing that we are in this “flow’ is Rohr and Morrell hope in writing this book.  They are not alone.  Rather, they are simply the latest voices to be added to a chorus of theologians, mystics, writers, poets, and pastors, who are telling us that something good is happening, something of a revival or awakening to the flow of Divine love.  We can hear it in the writing of people like C Baxter Kruger, Steve McVey, and numerous other theologians (many of them reference on this blog) who are pointing toward the transformative power of the Divine dance and our inclusion in it.

 

One of the more notable voices is that of Wm. Paul Young, author of “The Shack,” who wrote the introduction to this book, saying:

 

“Waters made of many voices rise into a fountain of life that is collecting dreams- of expectancy and chronic wonder and longing love – the cusp of a new reformation and the release of renaissance. As wonderful as revival has been, it has never been enough. We have witnessed the shattering of old wineskins and watched the blood red wine be absorbed into the ground. For those with eyes to see, they look out from a towering, rising mass of living water about to crash over the planet.”

 

This book comes with my highest recommendation.  I may well review it again following my second reading.

Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation
by: Richard Rohr
publisher: Whitaker House, published: 2016-10-04
ASIN: 1629117293
EAN: 9781629117294
sales rank: 1553
price: $15.18 (new), $13.99 (used)

Invitation to a Dance

The Trinity is supposed to be the central, foundational doctrine of our entire Christian belief system, yet we’re often told that we shouldn’t attempt to understand it because it is a “mystery.” Should we presume to try to breach this mystery? If we could, how would it transform our relationship with God and renew our lives?

The word Trinity is not found in the New Testament—it wasn’t until the third century that early Christian father Tertullian coined it—but the idea of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was present in Jesus’ life and teachings and from the very beginning of the Christian experience.

In the pages of this book, internationally recognized teacher Richard Rohr circles around this most paradoxical idea as he explores the nature of God—circling around being an apt metaphor for this mystery we’re trying to apprehend. Early Christians who came to be known as the “Desert Mothers and Fathers” applied the Greek verb perichoresis to the mystery of the Trinity. The best translation of this odd–sounding word is dancing. Our word choreography comes from the same root. Although these early Christians gave us some highly conceptualized thinking on the life of the Trinity, the best they could say, again and again, was, Whatever is going on in God is a flow—it’s like a dance.

But God is not a dancer—He is the dance itself. That idea might sound novel, but it is about as traditional as you can get. God is the dance itself, and He invites you to be a part of that dance. Are you ready to join in?

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
by: Richard Rohr
publisher: Jossey-Bass, published: 2011-04-19
ASIN: 0470907754
EAN: 9780470907757
sales rank: 2653
price: $10.88 (new), $8.01 (used)

In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or “gone down” are the only ones who understand “up.” Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as “falling upward.” In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.

  • Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness
  • Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens?loss is gain
  • Richard. Rohr is a regular contributing writer for Sojourners and Tikkun magazines

This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right–a fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life.

Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
by: Richard Rohr O.F.M.
publisher: Franciscan Media, published: 2011-09-13
ASIN: 1616361573
EAN: 9781616361570
sales rank: 5588
price: $9.10 (new), $7.93 (used)

We are all addicted in some way. When we learn to identify our addiction, embrace our brokenness, and surrender to God, we begin to bring healing to ourselves and our world. In Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr shows how the gospel principles in the Twelve Steps can free anyone from any addiction—from an obvious dependence on alcohol or drugs to the more common but less visible addiction that we all have to sin.

Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer
by: Richard Rohr
publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company, published: 2003-03-01
ASIN: 0824519957
EAN: 9780824519957
sales rank: 8611
price: $10.16 (new), $3.46 (used)

This popular and bestselling book of the renowned Franciscan challenges people to move beyond the comfort of a settled life toward an understanding of themselves that is rooted in their connection to God. Only when they rest in God can they find the certainty and the freedom to become all that they can be. Contemplation has its place at the heart of Christianity, a place that allows people to experience how “everything belongs.”

The Naked Now: Learning To See As the Mystics See
by: Richard Rohr
publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company, published: 2009-09
ASIN: 0824525434
EAN: 9780824525439
sales rank: 18675
price: $11.18 (new), $2.82 (used)

For Christians seeking a way of thinking outside of strict dualities, this guide explores methods for letting go of division and living in the present. Drawn from the Gospels, Jesus, Paul, and the great Christian contemplatives, this examination reveals how many of the hidden truths of Christianity have been misunderstood or lost and how to read them with the eyes of the mystics rather than interpreting them through rational thought. Filled with sayings, stories, quotations, and appeals to the heart, specific methods for identifying dualistic thinking are presented with simple practices for stripping away ego and the fear of dwelling in the present.

What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self
by: Richard Rohr
publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company, published: 2015-05-01
ASIN: 0824520394
EAN: 9780824520397
sales rank: 37207
price: $10.79 (new), $7.97 (used)

Drawing from the best and most poetic of Richard Rohr’s essays from nearly a quarter of a century, each chapter in this new collection examines one of the seven core mystical truths. Organized according to the mystical paths that every worshiper must follow, Rohr identifies the despair of everyday life, promotes opportunities for change even in the face of pain, thereby transforming one’s deeper self into a beacon of light that aids in the perpetual metamorphosis of others. Illuminating these insights with reflections on Christian and Jewish scriptures while citing the greatest religious writers throughout the ages, Rohr offers an unparalleled window into the wisdom of the mystics, within a succinct volume that represents the best treasury of his vast library of writing.

Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi
by: Richard Rohr O.F.M.
publisher: Franciscan Media, published: 2016-09-30
ASIN: 1632531402
EAN: 9781632531407
sales rank: 19360
price: $8.40 (new), $10.54 (used)

Francis of Assisi is one of the most beloved of all saints. Both traditional and entirely revolutionary, he was a paradox. He was at once down to earth and reaching toward heaven, grounded in the rich history of the Church while moving toward a new understanding of the world beyond.

Globally recognized as an ecumenical teacher, Richard Rohr started out—and remains—a Franciscan friar. The loving, inclusive life and preaching of Francis of Assisi make him a recognizable and beloved saint across many faith traditions. He was, as Rohr notes, a master of ‘making room for it’ and letting go of that which was tired or empty.”

Francis found an “alternative way” to follow Jesus, one that disregarded power and privilege and held fast to the narrow path of the Gospel. Rohr helps us look beyond the birdbath image of the saint to remind us of the long tradition founded on his revolutionary, radical, and life-changing embrace of the teachings of Jesus.

Rohr draws on Scripture, insights from psychology, and literary and artistic references, to weave together an understanding of the tradition as first practiced by St. Francis. Rohr shows how his own innovative theology is firmly grounded in the life and teaching of this great saint and provides a perspective on how his alternative path to the divine can deepen and enrich our spiritual lives.

 

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