The joyous clash of tambourines and the rollicking reels of pipes and strings were punctuated with exultant shouts as the Ark of the Covenant was led into Jerusalem. At the head of the ecstatic procession, clothed only with a linen apron, King David danced exposed before God and man. For a moment, the ancient joy was found once more upon the earth. The son of him who hid from his Creator once more danced naked in His sight.
There is something unsettling, perhaps even manic about David’s dance. Has he forgotten himself entirely? Where is his self-respect, his royal dignity? But perhaps the most pressing question of all, where is his fear? In his pure, unadulterated, naked joy, David has no fear. Gone is the anxiety that restrains a man’s exuberance for the sake of decorum. Gone is the caution that guards against the social blunder and the wardrobe malfunction. Gone even is the fear of future pain and death’s dark hour. No fear can be found in this man which would turn his gaze inward with self-interested preoccupation.
In David’s dance we discover the relationship that exists between joy and fear, exultation and humility. It is the same dynamic we see present in every festive celebration. Whatever the occasion, one will typically find a guest too self-conscious to dance, too anxious to talk to strangers, with a soul too preoccupied to be filled with joy. As Friedrich Nietzsche once observed, “The trick is not to arrange a festival; but to find people who can enjoy it.” Festive joy may surround a man, but if his soul lacks hope and is filled with fear he will remain cut off from the joy. The fearful, despairing soul stands locked in a self-referential gaze, trembling at the threat of the world. But the joyous soul, stripped of all fear, stands naked to the whole of reality and is free to shout in exultation with his Creator, “Behold all that is! It is very good!”
When David danced naked in Jerusalem, all his fear gave way before the presence of Beatitude himself. As we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection this Easter, we do well to learn from our fearless, joyful king. In this life, our joy will never be perfect; for it is a joy animated by hope rather than Beatitude’s perfect possession. And yet, though we will suffer many things in this life, we need not let our joy be suffocated by fear. David could not see how death would be destroyed, nor could he see how fear’s every cause would be conquered, but He had faith in the saving power of His God.
In these last days, we have witnessed the Salvation wrought by Him who was David’s hope. The Son of God has become man, has conquered Satan with his cross, and has risen on the third day. David’s hope has been vindicated, and now we have nothing to fear. Our trust is in the God whose reign endures forever, who even now is making all things new. And soon all will be as it should be, for Christ is truly risen! And his Kingdom shall endure forever and ever. Amen.
Image: Alessandro Magnasco, David Dancing Before the Ark of the Covenant