This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series How I became a Queer Theologian

“God is not sexual” my friend stated matter-of-factly. It is odd that he did because he also does not believe in god. How the god he does not believe in can be, or not be, anything is beyond me. It is a common notion though to separate the divine from the worldly. It is even more common to draw a strong demarcation line between the sacred and the sexual. It is therefore imperative that we recognise that eros is an integral part of love and that god is love.

In my last post in this series I hinted at the possibility of having an erotic involvement with god. I said that this is a common image used by Christian mystics and I think an important part in recovering a healthy view on sexuality.

So lets return to the trinity the self sufficient community of god. The basis of grace lies in gods self sufficiency that is, because god had everything god needed within the trinity, god did not need to create the world and therefore all (as in all god creates outside godself) is grace, a free and scandalous gift.

The interrelations of the trinity have been described in theological terms as perichoresis. This term describes an indwelling or interconnectedness that has often been described as a dance.

Here is the Wikipwedia entry on perichoresis

Although clear references to full-blown Trinitarian theology in the New Testament are rare, it can be seen between two persons of the Trinity in passages such as the following from John’s Gospel:“the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father.”[1]

The relationship of the Triune God is intensified by the relationship of perichoresis. This indwelling expresses and realizes fellowship between the Father and the Son. It is intimacy. Jesus compares the oneness of this indwelling to the oneness of the fellowship of his church from this indwelling. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21).”

The theological tradition has viewed the indwelling as fellowship. John of Damascus, who was influential in developing the doctrine of the perichoresis, described it as a “cleaving together.” Such is the fellowship in the Godhead that the Father and the Son not only embrace each other, but they also enter into each other, permeate each other, and dwell in each other. One in being, they are also always one in the intimacy of their friendship.

I think there are a few notes to be made from this image of the trinity in perichoresis. The first is the language of “oneness”, “becoming one” and “cleaving” that mirrors our understanding of a consummated marriage. I write consummated because in biblical times a marriage that was not consummated was not a marriage at all. Even today there are many parts of the world where a marriage can be annulled if not consummated. The whole idea of oneness and cleaving together comes from the sharing of the marriage bed and entering into one another.

This of course is the next image of the trinity, the entering into one another, indwelling, penetrating each other, crossing boundaries and blurring out the edges to the extent that it is hard to separate one from the other. Like dancers blurred on a stage, like lovers in a bed. I think one of the most beautiful images of perichoresis is in the C.S. Lewis space trilogy.

And now, by a transition which he did not notice, it seemed that what had begun as speech was turned into sight, or into something that can be remembered only as if it were seeing. He thought he saw the Great Dance. It seemed to be woven out of the intertwining undulation of many cords or bands of light, leaping over and under one another and mutually embraced in arabesques and flower-like subtleties.

Each figure as he looked at it became the master-figure or focus of the whole spectacle, by means of which his eye disentangled a1l else and brought it into unity–only to be itself entangled when he looked to what he had taken for mere marginal decorations and found that there also the same hegemony was claimed, and the claim made good, yet the former pattern not thereby dispossessed but finding in its new subordination a significance greater than that which it had abdicated. He could see also (but the word “seeing” is now plainly inadequate) wherever the ribbons or serpents of light intersected, minute corpuscles of momentary brightness: and he knew somehow that these particles were the secular generalities of which history tells–peoples, institutions, climates of opinion, civilisations, arts, sciences, and the like–ephemeral coruscations that piped their short song and vanished. The ribbons or cords themselves, in which millions of corpuscles lived and died, were things of some different kind. At first he could not say what. But he knew in the end that most of them were individual entities. If so, the time in which the Great Dance proceeds is very unlike time as we know it.

Some of the thinner and more delicate cords were beings that we call short-lived: flowers and insects, a fruit or a storm of rain, and once (he thought) a wave of the sea. Others were such things as we also think lasting: crystals, rivers, mountains, or even stars. Far above these in girth and luminosity and flashing with colours from beyond our spectrum were the lines of the personal beings, yet as different from one another in splendour as all of them from the previous class. But not all the cords were individuals: some were universal truths or universal qualities. It did not surprise him then to find that these and the persons were both cords and both stood together as against the mere atoms of generality which lived and died in the clashing of their streams: but afterwards, when he came back to earth, he wondered.

And by now the thing must have passed together out of the region of sight as we understand it. For he says that the whole solid figure of these enamoured and inter-inanimated circlings was suddenly revealed as the mere superficies of a far vaster pattern in four dimensions, and that figure as the boundary of yet others in other worlds: till suddenly as the movement grew yet swifter, the interweaving yet more ecstatic, the relevance of all to all yet more intense, as dimension was added to dimension and that part of him which could reason and remember was dropped farther and farther behind that part of him which saw, even then, at the very zenith of complexity, complexity was eaten up and faded, as a thin white cloud fades into the hard blue burning of the sky, and a  simplicity beyond all comprehension, ancient and young as spring, illimitable, pellucid, drew him with cords of infinite desire into its own stillness. He went up into such a quietness, a privacy, and a freshness that at the very moment when he stood farthest from our ordinary mode of being he had the sense of stripping off encumbrances and awaking from trance, and coming to himself. (C.S. Lewis – Perelandra)

OK, so god’s agape, fileo and eros is expressed in this dance, what does this have to do with me?

This is where I think it gets exciting. In John 17, Jesus prayer for the believers, for us we are invited into this dance. Jesus is extending an invitation to “be one” with him as he is “one” with the trinity. This means unconditionally accepted in gods agape, respected and loved as a friend in gods fileo and passionately adored and loved in gods eros. Michael Jackson expressed it like this:

Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion, when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists. I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become the victor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known. I keep on dancing and then, it is the eternal dance of creation. The creator and the creation merge into one wholeness of joy. I keep on dancing — until there is only. . . the dance.    

Paul young calls it to be included in the trinity’s “circle of submission”. Where I submit to Jesus as Jesus submits to the spirit and the spirit submits to the creator and the creator submits to Jesus and Jesus submits to me and I submit to god. On and on the dance extends throughout eternity.

I think this is where St. Theresa of Avila paints the picture of intimate communion with god that is ecstatic and pleasure at the same time as it is passion and pain. I think this is also where lovers transcend when they climax in the bedroom if they have the presence to notice, I thing this is where the sexual act becomes worship, whether with a partner or alone with god. I think we are called to experience this “at-one-ment” with god not only as acceptance (agape) and friendship (file) but the bodily, physical, erotic experience of being loved by god.

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