Some people exercise during Lent. I’m lucky. I already have an exercise class up here on the third floor where I live with 58 other sisters. It meets at 9:00 am Monday through Friday for about 40 minutes. About eight of us show up pretty regularly. There’s no pressure to come every day.
We exercise along with a DVD called “Stronger Seniors,” a workout program led by Anne Pringle Burnell. We like her. We also like the ladies behind her who do the exercises with her. They are not young and skinny—although young and skinny is good, of course. Instead, they are more mature and matronly—like us! Mature and matronly is good too!
We do all our exercises while sitting in a chair. Now, before you smirk, let me tell you that there are three parts to our routine: warmup, aerobics, and weight lifting. We do a lot of stretching and slow movements with our arms, legs, and shoulders in the warm up section. In the aerobics section we run, swim, box, dance the tango, and even do jumping jacks—all while sitting in our chairs. In the weight lifting part, we do all kinds of things while holding our 2 lb. weights. We stow our imaginary luggage in the imaginary airplane overhead bin, we pour drinks, we start a lawn mower, we saw wood. By the end of class, we are pretty worn out.
Why do we exercise? The cover on the DVD case tells us why: “to develop strength and enhance the ability to function in daily life.” In other words, we exercise so we can keep moving. And movement is a beautiful thing.
In my book, The Grace of Beauty, I have an entire chapter dedicated to the beauty of movement. I begin with the fact that we are always moving even if we’re sitting still. As you sit and read this, for example, the earth is rotating 1,040 miles per hour—and it’s taking you along for the ride! In addition, the earth is rotating around the sun at (hang on to your hat!) 66,500 miles per hour! Every cell in our body is also in constant motion. So is every single atom that composes every single cell, tree, rock, raindrop, whale, beetle, and blueberry. Movement lies at the heart of our universe.
Does movement also characterize God? The great medieval mystic, Mechthild of Magdeburg thought so. She wrote that God is a moving God, a “restless” God, an “overflow… which never stands still and always flows effortlessly without ceasing.” The contemporary writer Steven Bevans, SVD, agrees. He writes: “I’ve begun to think of God as a Movement, an Embrace, a Flow—moving through the cosmos and history, embracing wounded and suffering creation, flowing through the smallest subatomic particle as well as complex organisms.” Bevans goes even further to say that all of creation is engaged in a cosmic dance that God is leading—maybe a dance like the conga.
Jesus too was a mover. Even as a young boy, Jesus “advanced in wisdom and age.” Advancing implies movement. During his public ministry he was always on the go, mostly on foot, never settling down. When he encounters the sick he was also moved with compassion. When he loses his friend Lazarus, he is moved to tears. His interior growth and understanding were always advancing too as he learned to follow the new dance steps Abba and the Spirit were teaching him.
His entire life was a movement toward Jerusalem, toward Calvary, toward death. Isn’t this what we commemorate during Lent? And don’t we also focus on our own participation in that movement of Jesus? But his story does not end with the stillness of death on Calvary. No, because on Easter morning Jesus sprang out of the darkness of the tomb and danced his way into the brightness of everlasting glory.
What role does movement play in your daily life?
Does movement play a role in your prayer? your work? your leisure?
What are some of your favorite forms of moving—for example, walking, dancing, swimming, driving, flying? Why?
PS: This past week I was making my annual retreat—for 2020! (I’m a little behind with my life…) I just want you to know that you, my Sunflower Seeds readers, were in my prayers every day in a very special way!
Our video today is called “Breathtaking View of Nature” by Eredus. It captures the endless and the beautiful movement found in the natural world. I hope you enjoy it!
Thank you for reading my blog!