Terrie and I last night went to see Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet.
One of the striking things about dance, when done well, is how effortless it seems. We all know that dance requires a lot of effort, but when professional dancers perform, they seem to float above the floor. Unlike the clumsy rest of us, there seems to be perfect coordination of body and spirit. The body has been perfectly spiritualized; the spirit has been perfectly embodied in the body’s movements.
This is a symbol of Lent. Lent is a time for, among other things, detaching ourselves from the pleasures of the body. It is easy to interpret this detachment as a revolt against the body and a rejection of its fleshiness, but we can also see detachment as an exercise designed to spiritualize the body–to overcome gap between the spirit and the body, so that the spirit can be fully embodied.
In theological circles these days it is customary to assume that we are embodied creatures, but perhaps embodiment is a task to be accomplished, not something that we can just assume. Perhaps embodiment is an acquired skill, like dancing.
If so, then those who, in the spirit of Lent, achieve, however fragmentarily, the spiritualization of the body are like the greatest of dancers who in the act of dance realize the union of spirit and body.