Posted September 13, 2014 in Word Made Flesh:
With Arms Wide Open

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

Here’s a thought for September 14th, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Zorba the Greek? You mean that weird movie from the ‘60s about that Greek feller who was dancin’ all the time?

You never cease to amaze me with your profound knowledge of history.

Very funny, Reverend. Are you gonna dance now?

Only if you’ll join me.

In yer dreams!

But, you see, that’s the point. Lots of people dance in their dreams because they would never think of dancing in their real life. I’m saying that in the ‘60s many of us were introduced to dancing. But dancing in some form or other belongs to every culture, and that movie stirred it up in some of us for the first time.

You mean snappin’ yer fingers and bendin’ yer knees and turnin’ around in circles, that kind of stuff?

That’s precisely what I mean.

So I suppose yer gonna tell me dancin’ and religion have things in common, like let’s all Samba ta church this Sunday. Whoop-di-do!

No, not exactly, though it might do you some good.

But I remember asking Catherine once if she ever danced while she was alone in poustinia. To my surprise she not only said yes, but she told me she liked to dance to the tune of, "The Lord of the Dance," from a lovely musical presentation on spring time in the Appalachian Mountains by Aaron Copeland.

And then one day I saw Catherine dance in public and I thought I was back in the movie watching Zorba: arms wide open, fingers clicking, and her moving like she was heading for somewhere else.

It was the arms wide open that really caught my attention because close by where she was dancing was a crucifix on which Christ had his arms wide open. It was weird.

For you? That surprises me! Incidentally, what’s the difference between a cross and a crucifix?

Simple: on a cross there is no body of Christ and on a crucifix the body is present either as dying or already dead.

In any case, whenever I see a crucifix now, what I see first of all is arms wide open. And for some reason, that makes me think of dancing almost as if Christ is revealing something about arms wide open that we didn’t know before Calvary and perhaps we can’t until we too do an arms wide open.

I knew it! Yer gonna git religion and dancin’ together one way or the other. I kin tell.

Well, there is a favourite scripture passage of mine which comes to mind when I hear you say that, when I am lifted up I will draw all things to myself (Jn 12:32).

There’s something about arms wide open on Calvary which draws us, attracts us, invites us, even hints at an embrace. You know that Christ actually did reach down from the Cross and embrace some saints over the years, don’t you?

Yer tellin’ me that you…..

No, no, my friend, not me! But there is some mysterious joy-thing going on at Calvary in that arms wide open gesture.

It’s the same kind of thing I saw in Catherine when she danced arms wide open. And I know that sometimes when I look at my favorite crucifix up-close for a long time, either out of sinful shame or grateful joy, it seems like the agony disappears, his and mine, and something else takes its place.

Something as real as dancing is happening between the both of us with arms wide open.

And I wonder if that wouldn’t happen more often if we risked dancing outside of our dreams now and then like Catherine did. And I wonder if the Spirit didn’t use good ole Zorba to unwittingly point us in that dancing-direction way back in the ‘60s.

I ain’t dancin’ in church, Reverend, no matter what you say.

I didn’t say anything about dancing in church. But I am saying that if you’ve never thrown your arms wide open, clicked your fingers and danced just a little bit all alone somewhere, some time, before the Cross you might be missing something very wonderful when you do go to church.

An’ how am I supposed ta know that, Reverend?


In yer dreams!

Poor fellow, you have no idea what you’re missing. See you in church!


If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!


Restoration Contents

Next article:
Notes From Near and Far: Arizona

Previous article:
Combermere Diary (September 2014)



RSS 2.0RSS feed

Madonna House - A Training Centre for the Lay Apostolate