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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Let's Dance---NOT!

The beauty salon can be a hotbed of conversatons.  The old cliche is that everyone tells their hairdresser everything. In my case, that "everything" includes liturgy, only, it was not just my hairdressor, but, my fellow patron. 

Both of us were having our hair colored.  The woman had just come back, two children in tow, from CCD. We talked about liturgy.  It seems that one of her daughters had graduated from my Alma Mater, a Catholic school just a block away from the salon.  I told the woman that I am very disappointed with the turn that the school had taken insofar as liturgy was concerned.  It was, sadly, a turn for the worse.  The new generation of religious running the school took it upon themselves to introduce a new innovation into the Mass:  dance.  Dancing, along with the infiltration of the Protestant Praise and Worship genre into the school Masses is something that I believe their founder, St. John Bosco, would have expressly objected to and outright vetoed.  That Don Bosco wanted to attract the youth to God and to the Church is one thing; quite another is the manner in which this is being done at the present time.  Don Bosco would never have compromised the integrity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  He instilled fidelity to the Church in both his Order and in the children he taught.

My fellow customer asked me how I can raise such objections to dancing if King David danced in the Bible.  This is an argument typically used by proponents of dance (and any other strange innovation folks want to introduce into the Holy Sacrifice).  I told her that, first and foremost, David's dance was not a part of the sacrificial cultic worship of ancient Israel.  He did this entirely on his own.  Furthermore, if we really wanted to go so far as to follow the Davidic example, then, the dancer would have to be male and wear an ephod (a very skimply little apron reserved only for the priest). 

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a statement regarding "dance" in the liturgy some 35 years ago back in 1975.  CDWDS Prefect-emeritus Francis Cardinal Arinze, himself an African prelate, routinely criticized the innovation, citing the 1975 statement.  The document reads, in part, that:

The dance has never been made an integral part of the official worship of the Latin Church.

If local churches have accepted the dance, sometimes even in the church building, that was on the occasion of feasts in order to manifest sentiments of joy and devotion. But that always took place outside of liturgical services.

Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders.
Of course, the document also gives some legitimate allowances for dance.  Read on where it states that:

Actually, in favor of dance in the liturgy, an argument could be drawn from the passage of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in which are given the norms for adaptation of the liturgy to the character and the traditions of the various peoples:
"In matters which do not affect the faith or the well-being of an entire community, the Church does not wish, even in the Liturgy, to impose a rigid uniformity; on the contrary, she respects and fosters the genius and talents of various races and people. Whatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she looks upon with benevolence and if possible keeps it intact, and sometimes even admits it into the Liturgy provided it accords with the genuine and authentic liturgical spirit." [1]
Theoretically, it could be deduced from that passage that certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship.

Nevertheless, two conditions could not be prescinded from.

The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer.

The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as a gesture would have to be under its discipline.

However, this principle does not apply to young girls in flowing gowns sashaying up the aisle carrying incense bowls.  This is not some sort of indigenous exercise.  It's more along the lines of some sort of strange performance that would be better suited for a performing arts center.

Now, down here in the hinterland, there is a legitimate use of dance for worship:  the dance performed by the Matachines, a centuries-old indigenous group from Mexico.  The Matachines perform this dance as a form of ritual worship to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  In fact, this dance dates back over 500 years.  The interesting thing about the Matachines is that this special dance, which carries rythms and moves that are their own specific ritual, is often performed outside of the Mass, usually in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The dance is performed in parishes that traditionally hold a nine-day novena in honor of Our Lady of  Guadalupe and on her very solemnity.  This is true inculturation.

I enjoy dancing.  On a given Monday, you'll find me plopped in front of the TV going between Dancing wih the Stars and NCIS.  But, when it comes to the Mass, let's not dance.

For more information on the CDWDS statement, you can read it in its entirety at:

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post as usual! I love dancing as much as anybody else, but it needs to be in the proper context! Dancing is fun, but you don't do it during mass.