Dancing with Sophia

Sunday Morning. Just a few hours until the dance session begins on ZOOM. I haven’t registered yet, nor have I attended these classes in recent months, not since Banafsheh, our Persian born teacher of Sacred Dance, invited us to dance in support of the young people of Iran engaged in a revolution to set their country free of oppression. Young people being sentenced to death for their involvement in peaceful protests. I tell myself I can’t take on another nation’s suffering. Not with the war in Ukraine, not with the devastation of the planet. There’s too much darkness already. I stop attending dance class….

Yet somehow I am feeling drawn to today’s class.

I reread the invitation from Banafsheh:

Join us to celebrate Spring and renewal, and dance to put a transformative poem by Rumi into motion, so you can balance the joy and the sorrow in a wide-open heart with self-authority…grounded in the security of our Mother.

Spring, Renewal, Rumi’s Poetry, Balancing Joy and Sorrow…alluring as these references are, I know it’s the last phrase that’s drawing me: grounded in the security of our Mother. It’s what first drew me to Banafsheh’s teaching: her commitment to the Sacred Feminine in her many guises, under her many names.

My life is also committed to this Sacred Presence, whom I name Sophia.

I register for the dance.

Banafsheh begins with photos of young women and men, radiant with youth, with beauty, with intelligence, with nobility. Each picture is surrounded by flowers, adorning a gravesite. The photos remind me of my young adult nieces and nephews. What would I be feeling now if my own beloved ones were put to death for attending a peaceful protest?

Suddenly I know.

I feel my heart breaking within me.

Words are rising silently. I know this voice. The one Banafsheh named Mother, the one I know as Sophia says: “They all belong to me.”

And I get it. This is not the agony of strangers. This is our agony.

In an instant, everything changes. And we begin to dance…

Only later do I realize this is happening on Palm Sunday.

With the rising of the full Paschal Moon on April 6th, we re-enter the Sacred Days of the Passion Play the yearly re-living of the final act in the life of Jesus on earth, his agony and death, his resurrection.

For years, decades, I approached Holy Week with a kind of dread, knowing I must engage once more in the agony of Jesus, his sufferings, his death, followed by the long tomb-time of his absence before I could even remember the truth of Resurrection…. I would get up during the night after the Holy Thursday Eucharist to spend an hour in prayer, remembering Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, his friends asleep around him, as he faced the certitude of his coming death.

It was a Mystery Play, perhaps not unlike the ancient Greek and Roman Mystery Rituals, but the emotions were manufactured. The darkness I experienced through these intense feelings of grief and loss was real, as was the physical discomfort of fasting. Yet some part of me knew it was play-acting: both the terrible loss of Good Friday and the exploding joy of Easter. Jesus IS risen and will never die again; the Christ is with us always.

Nine years ago, something shifted. I wakened in the deep heart of Holy Thursday night. Yet I was drawn in prayer, not to the Garden of Gethsemane, but to the Earth herself, in agony, dying. I sat through that hour with her suffering.

Later I came upon this lovely meditation by Susan Griffin which spoke to my heart:

As I go into the Earth, she pierces my heart. As I penetrate further, she unveils me. When I have reached her center, I am weeping openly. I have known her all my life, yet she reveals stories to me, and these stories are revelations and I am transformed. Each time I go to her, I am born like this. Her renewal washes over me endlessly, her wounds caress me. I become aware of all that has come between us, the blindness, of something sleeping between us. Now my body reaches out to her. They speak effortlessly, and I learn that at no instant does she fail me in her presence. She is as delicate as I am, I know her sentience, I feel her pain and my own pain comes into me, and my own pain grows large and I grasp this pain with my hands, and I open my mouth to this pain, I taste, I know and I know why she goes on, under great weight, with this great thirst, in drought, in starvation, with intelligence in every act does she survive disaster. This earth is my sister, I love her daily grace, her silent daring, and how loved I am, how we admire this strength in each other, all that we have lost, all that we have suffered, all that we know: we are stunned by this beauty, and I do not forget what she is to me, what I am to her. (Susan Griffin in The Body of Earth)

Since that time of awakening, I experience these Sacred Days of the Paschal Mystery, the Mystery of life/death/life that is at the Holy Heart of the Universe, in a new and deeper way. The suffering is now for me a reawakening to the raw suffering, the unaccountable losses, the seeking for light and hope in darkness that is the Mystery Play of our lives in this year of 2023 on Planet Earth.

This is why we need a Sacred Feminine Presence that is more than sweetness and light, One who is also fierce, strong, capable of holding us in the darkness in which our lives are shrouded. The Dark Mother, Who was present in the very chaos in which our Universe was birthed, strong enough to remain through eons of destruction and rebirth, still with us, within us.

May the Dark Mother hold each of us as we stand in this moment of darkness, raising the chalice of kindness to bless our earth and all that lives upon and within her, all that belongs to the Mother.

One thought on “Dancing with Sophia”

  1. Your writing here calls me deeper and deeper into my physical attending to Earth Presence, Anne Kathleen…and I will follow this call more and more deeply as winter melts into spring…


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