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Dancing Standing Still is a delightful introduction to Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, and to a Christian spirituality that seeks to integrate outer actions (for the sake of love, justice, and healing) with spirituality that centers in love, justice, and healing. Rohr’s book contains multiple points of meditation, but these do not form a traditional devotional book in which each meditation has definite start and end points. In one sense, the book is an extended meditation, a conversation between author and reader—and at times, Rohr includes asides to himself as a reminder to stay on the task of integrating prayer and action.

Throughout the book I found reminders of conversations with others about spirituality and action. One example:

When people ask me which is the more important, action or contemplation, I know it is an impossible question to answer because they are eternally united in one embrace, two sides of one coin. So I say that action is not the important word, contemplation is not the important word; AND is the important word! (p.11)

Rohr offers a brief analysis of the poles of power, using the kings and prophets of the Bible as examples of the Right and the Left, those backed by tradition and authority and those who without such power. Following this understanding, Rohr’s writing delivered this holy kick in the rear for me:

The history of the sacraments is itself a pendulum swing between the needs of the Left (the laity) and the demands of the Right (the clergy). If the needs of the Left actually won out, I suspect we would have seventy sacraments instead of seven: the washing of feet, forgiveness ceremonies for failed marriages, communal prayer over the sick, liturgies of lament, agape meals, public reconciliation rituals, cleansing of warriors after war, and so on.  (pp. 93-94)

Father Rohr is on target in this understanding. Long have I lived with a sense of those seven traditional sacraments from my Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church heritage. My Protestant nature argued two sacraments only. As an ordained person, I have guarded those sacraments, but during recent years, I have found myself wavering and no longer find myself wanting to strengthen the walls of tradition. I have seen the redemptive and reconciling impact of “Blue Christmas / Darkest Night” services and the holy healing of intercessory prayer in small groups. I continue to reflect on a time when a recently divorced person requested prayer, saying “I want to stand at the church altar and you pray for me. I put this ring on at this altar and if I’m going to take it off, then it happens here.” And so we did that in a way that spoke of the death of the marriage and of healing and hope. God’s invitation to dance in holiness comes in many forms and as unlimited in number as our hearts and minds open to the possibilities of mercy and love. As Rohr might say, may our action and prayer unite in ways that we begin to see that the space between heaven and earth is thin indeed.

Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer, by Richard Rohr (Paulist Press, 2014)

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