The Duet of the Holy Spirit: When Mourning & Dancing Are One

June 1992By Henri J.M. Nouwen

The Rev. Henri J.M. Nouwen is a writer and lectur­er, a priest-in-residence at Daybreak in Toronto (a Catholic/ecumenical L’Arche community serving disabled persons), and a Contributing Editor of the NOR. Born in Nijkerk, Holland, he has taught at Yale, Harvard, and the North American College in Rome. Among his many books are The Wounded Healer and Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery. Another version of this article will be published as a small illus­trated book by Ave Maria Press in the spring of 1993.

Healing is not a skill exclusive to doctors, psychotherapists, counselors, or social workers. Important as these professionals are, they should in no way prevent or inhibit us from the exercise of our own spiritual gift of heal­ing.

It belongs to the heart of our Christian vision that all of us, whether we have degrees or not, are called to be healers. Shortly before his death Jesus said, “It is good for you that I go because, unless I go, I cannot send you the Spirit, the counselor, the consoler…. And when the Spirit comes, he will reveal to you the depth of God’s love and lead you into the fullness of that love….” Jesus speaks here about the Spirit of healing.

Consider the words of the Evangelist John: “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.” These cool, stark words bring us straight to the place of healing because, as healers, we must face the Evil One while stay­ing safely in the embrace of God. Thus healing is mourning as well as dancing: mourning over losses that the world, captive to the forces of Evil, inflicts on us, and dancing in the house of God where we belong. We tend, however, to stay away from both mourning and dancing: too afraid to cry and too shy to dance. We say, “It is not as bad as you think, nor as good as you hope.” We prefer to fuss about our own petty problems instead of dealing with the ominous presence of evil, and we prefer to cling to our little self-made moments of happi­ness instead of entering fully into the joy of God’s Kingdom. Thus we become narrow­-minded complainers, avoiding not only real human pain, but also true human joy. But true healing calls us to face the harsh realities of our lives and to come to grips with the truth that, while we live in a world subject to the power of the Evil One, we belong to God. That’s what mourning and dancing are all about.

So let’s mourn and let’s dance, and let’s come to the realization that the time to mourn and the time to dance may, in the end, be the same.

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

Back to June 1992 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Be the first to comment on this story!