CONGREGATION FOR THE SACRAMENTS AND DIVINE WORSHIP
http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/teach/litudanc.htm The following essay appeared in "Notitiae" 11 (1975) 202-205, and is labeled as a "qualified and authoritative sketch." It is the mind of the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship (presently called Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) that this article is to be considered "an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter." Therefore, it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship.
(This English translation first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82).
THE RELIGIOUS DANCE, AN EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL JOY
The dance can be an art: a synthesis of the measured arts (music and poetry) and the spatial arts (architecture, sculpture, painting).
As an art which, by means of the body, expresses human feelings, the dance is especially adapted to signify joy.
Thus, among the mystics, we find intervals of dancing as an expression of the fullness of their love of God. Recall the cases of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, St. Gerard Majella. When the Angelic Doctor wished to represent paradise, he represented it as a dance executed by angels and saints.
The dance can turn into prayer which expresses itself with a movement which engages the whole being, soul and body. Generally, when the spirit raises itself to God in prayer, it also involves the body.
One can speak of the prayer of the body. This can express its praise, it petition with movements, just as is said of the stars which by their evolution praise their Creator (cf. Baruch 3:34).
Various examples of this type of prayer are had in the Old Testament.
This holds true especially for primitive peoples. They express their religious sentiment with rhythmic movements.
Among them, when there is a question of worship, the spoken word becomes a chant, and the gesture of going or walking towards the divinity transforms itself into a dance step.
Among the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers and in the conciliar texts there is mention of dancing, an evaluation of it, a comment on the biblical text in which there is an allusion to the dance; more frequently there is a condemnation of profane dances and the disorders to which the dances give rise.
In liturgical texts, there are at times allusions to the dance of the angels and of the elect in paradise (cf. "Among the lilies thou dost feed, surrounded by dancing groups of virgins") in order to express the "joy and the "jubilation" which will characterize eternity.
Dancing and Worship
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.1.
Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders. 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."
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.
Concretely: there are cultures in which this is possible insofar as dancing is still reflective of religious values and becomes a clear manifestation of them. Such is the case of the Ethiopians. In their culture, even today, there is the religious ritualized dance, clearly distinct from the marital dance and from the amorous dance. The ritual dance is performed by priests and Levites before beginning a ceremony and in the open are in front of the church. The dance accompanies the chanting of psalms during the procession. When the procession enters the church, then the chanting of the psalms is carried out with and accompanied by bodily movement.
The same thing is found in the Syriac liturgy by means of chanting of psalms.
In the Byzantine Liturgy, there is an extremely simplified dance on the occasion of a wedding when the crowned spouses make a circular revolution around the lectern together with the celebrant.
Such is the case of the Israelites: in the synagogue their prayer is accompanied by a continuous movement to recall the precept from tradition: "When you pray, do so with all your heart, and all your bones." And for primitive peoples the same observation can be made.
However, the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the western culture.
Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure.
For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.
Neither can acceptance be had of the proposal to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet  because there would be presentation here also of a spectacle at which one would assist, while in the liturgy one of the norms from which one cannot prescind is that of participation.
Therefore, there is a great difference in cultures: what is well received in one culture cannot be taken on by another culture.
The traditional reserve of the seriousness of religious worship, and of the Latin worship in particular, must never be forgotten.
If the proposal of the religious dance in the West is really to be made welcome, care will have to be taken that in its regard a place be found outside of the liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical. Moreover, the priests must always be excluded from the dance.
We can recall how much was derived from the presence of the Samoans at Rome for the missionary festival of 1971. At the end of the Mass, they carried out their dance in St. Peter's square: and all were joyful.
 Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 37; C.L.D., 6, p. 44.
 In favor of the insertion of artistic dancing into the liturgy, reference can also be made to the text of Gaudium et Spes, nn. 53, 57, 58. However, the cited texts speak of manifestation of culture in general, and of art which elevates with the true and beautiful. They do not speak of dancing in a specific manner. Dancing also can be an art. Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the conciliar Fathers, when they were speaking of art in the Council, had "in view" also the reality of dancing.
N. 62 of the said constitution, Gaudium et Spes, can certainly not be appealed to in this instance. When such number speaks of the artistic forms and of their importance in the life of the Church, it intends to make reference to the artistic forms as relative to the sacred furnishings. The counterproof stands in the texts cited in the footnote: article 123 of the Constitution on the Liturgy and the allocution of Paul VI to the artists at Rome in 1964 (C.L.D., 6, pp. 64 and 735 respectively).
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (BISHOPS' COMMITTEE on the LITURGY) NEWSLETTER. APRIL/MAY 1982.
FROM THESE DIRECTIVES, from the NATIONAL CONFERENCE of CATHOLIC BISHOPS, all dancing, (ballet, children's gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy*) are not permitted to be "introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever."
*Watch an Anglican "Clown" service on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ6KWt49wIA&feature=related
"Clown-Led Communion – This is no laughing matter" June 13, 2007 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ6KWt49wIA&NR=1
With a Key 1975 Article; source: http://www.zenit.org/article-11200?l=english
ROME, October 5, 2004 (ZENIT) Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: Is so-called liturgical dancing allowed in English-speaking countries where traditionally dancing is not regarded as culturally proper? Can it be carried out during solemn occasions such as the celebration of the Mass? — F.Y., Auckland, New Zealand
A: The document that comes closest to being an official commentary on this theme hails from an essay published by the official organ of the then Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Notitiae, 11 (1975) 202-205. This article is labeled as a "qualified and authoritative sketch." It is considered by the congregation as "an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter." Therefore, it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship. (The English translation below first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82.)
The article was later republished with permission in the April/May 1982 Newsletter of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which consequently published directives that "all dancing, (ballet, children's gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be "introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever."
Although not specifically mentioned in the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," dance can be included in the overall prohibition on introducing elements not contemplated by the liturgical books. On some recent occasions a certain form of dance has been introduced within the context of papal liturgies on the occasion of regional synods of bishops or canonization ceremonies. But these were usually associated with elements of African or Asian culture and are to be considered as special exceptions in virtue of the Pope's universal mission.
On recent occasions Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has publicly criticized certain forms of introducing dance into Western liturgy especially in forms which reduce the sacred rite to a spectacle.I am also aware that he has reiterated these criticisms privately to the bishops of several countries during their five-yearly "ad limina" visits to Rome.
The 1975 article from The Canon Law Digest follows: [as on pages 1, 2] 3.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has publicly criticized introducing dance into the Liturgy, as it risks reducing this sacred rite to a spectacle.In an address in 2003, for example, the cardinal responded to a question on "liturgical dance": "There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass"; and he noted that "the tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance. It is something that people are introducing in the last ten years -- or twenty years". (See Cardinal Responds to Questions on LiturgyAB October 2003)
There has not been an express ruling from the Holy See against so-called "liturgical dance" -- primarily because, as Cardinal Arinze also observed, dance-like movements during processions are customary in some countries, and thus may be a legitimate form of "inculturation" of the Liturgy in these regions. This kind of ritual dance has been introduced into several papal liturgies in recent years -- on occasions usually connected with African or Asian culture. These are special exceptions, however, that are to be seen in the context of the Holy Father's unique universal role, not as precedent-setting liturgical variations.
But the Holy See has addressed the matter of dance, constantly stressing the proper distinction between permitting indigenous cultural traditions and introducing innovations into the celebration of the Liturgy. First is the 1975 commentary on "religious dance" in an essay in Notitiae, the official publication of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The essay appeared in Notitiae, 11 (1975) 202-205; and was published in English translation, "The Religious Dance - an Expression of Spiritual Joy", in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp.78-82.
This article, which appears below, is called a "qualified and authoritative sketch", considered by the Congregation "an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter", thus it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship.
"The Religious Dance" was later reprinted in the Newsletter of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy in April/May 1982. The BCL also published directives that dancing, (ballet, children's gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) is not permitted to be "introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever".
In the Holy See's 1994 Instruction on authentic "inculturation" of the Roman liturgy, Varietates legitimae, there is a reference to dance gesture in certain cultures:
42. Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by handclapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.
The motive for urging a practice that is alien to the Catholic liturgical heritage is also worth considering. In "Jesus Christ, the Bearer of Life A Christian Reflection on the 'New Age'", jointly issued by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue in 2003 to caution Christians about false religious practice, dance is mentioned as one of the methods used by followers of the quasi-religious "New Age" movements to achieve "cosmic consciousness", "self-realization" and "enlightenment" (184.108.40.206), along with yoga and other movement and exercise programs. This document cautions that "It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with a Christian vision of God, the human person and the world". (6.2)
While "liturgical dance" is not expressly mentioned in the 2004 InstructionRedemptionis Sacramentum,it would be included in the general prohibition against introducing elements not contemplated by the liturgical books; furthermore, any changes in the rites that may be proposed by any conference of bishops must always have prior approval by the Holy See.
4. Liturgical Dancing Catholics United for the Faith, 1997 http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=95 ISSUE: Is liturgical dance permitted at Mass and other liturgical celebrations in western culture?
RESPONSE: Liturgical dancing is not appropriate in western culture, according to statements made by the Vatican in 1975 and 1994. In Dance in the Liturgy (1975), the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship specifically provided that liturgical dancing is not appropriate in western countries. In Instruction on the Roman Liturgy and Inculturation (1994), a document that is universally binding in the Church, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments did not contradict the 1975 statement.
DISCUSSION: In 1975, the Vatican Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship issued Dance in the Liturgy, a document which by its own terms should be considered as “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.” While not liturgical law, it is still the only statement that has come from the Holy See specifically addressing liturgical dance in western culture. This document affirms that, in some cultures, dance authentically expresses religious values and therefore could be allowed in the liturgy; but it stated that:
the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: Such dancing, in general, is not pure. For that reason, it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.
Concerning allegedly artistic ballet movements, the 1975 document provides:
Neither can acceptance be had of the proposal to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because there would be presentation here also of a spectacle at which [only] one would assist, while in the liturgy one of the norms from which one cannot prescind is that of participation [by all].
Concerning the possibility of religious dance in the West, the 1975 Vatican document concluded:
If the proposal of the religious dance in the West is really to be made welcome, care will have to be taken that in its regard a place be found outside of the liturgy, in assembly areas which are not strictly liturgical. Moreover, the priest must always be excluded from the dance (emphasis original; see Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, Vol. 18 (April/May 1982), 13-16; cf. Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, 78-82).
As noted, this statement was not contradicted by the universally binding 1994 Vatican document, which reaffirmed existing norms in the West.
Further inquiries in this matter can be directed to CUF, your diocesan liturgy office, or, if necessary, the Secretariat for the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 4th St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017-1194.
Facts on the Sacred Liturgy
http://www.spiritrestoration.org/Church/Research%20History%20and%20Great%20Links/Facts%20about%20the%20Sacred%20Liturgy.htm and http://www.christusrex.org/www1/mcitl/lowfacts.html 11. Re: "liturgical dance". On January 8, 1982, in answer to a question regarding liturgical dance, the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship referred to an article in its official journal, Notitiae, XI, 1975, pp. 202-205. "In the Byzantine Liturgy, there is a very simple dance [procession] on the occasion of a wedding, when the crowned newly married couple goes around the lectern with the celebrant...However, the same criterion and approach cannot be applied to Western culture. Here, the dance is connected with love, with amusement, with profanity, to rouse the senses, such a dance, usually, is not pure. Hence it is not possible to introduce something of that sort in the liturgical celebrations: it would mean to bring into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and this would be seen as introducing an atmosphere of profanity, which would easily suggest to those present worldly places and profane situations. Nor is it acceptable to introduce into the liturgy the so-called artistic ballet because it would reduce the liturgy to mere entertainment... If it were the case that the suggestion of liturgical dance in the West should be accepted, there would arise the obligation that the dances should take place outside the Liturgy at a time and place where they are not considered liturgical celebrations. And from such dance priests should always be excluded."
5. Music and Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Excerpts from The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp 198-199
http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/ratzinger_sotlmusic_jun06.asp The following excerpts are from The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, former prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now Pope Benedict XVI. EXTRACT
Liturgical Dancing Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. In about the third century, there was an attempt in certain Gnostic-Docetic circles to introduce it into the liturgy. For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. Before the Passion, Christ had abandoned the body that in any case he had never really assumed. Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes--incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy--none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy of the "reasonable sacrifice". It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy "attractive" by introducing dancing pantomimes (wherever possible performed by professional dance troupes), which frequently (and rightly, from the professionals' point of view) end with applause.
Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attractiveness fades quickly--it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation. I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance, which, needless to say, received a round of applause.
Could there be anything farther removed from true penitence? Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God, when it allows him to enter and act. Then something truly unique happens, beyond competition, and people have a sense that more has taken place than a recreational activity. None of the Christian rites includes dancing. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp 198-9)
Also at http://ceciliaschola.org/notes/benedictonmusic.html
On Friday, March 31, 2006, ChurchWerks.com hosted an online chat session with Cardinal Roger Mahony from the main Exhibit Hall at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, Calif. Our thanks to Ellie Hidalgo of The Tidings for help with moderating the chat. Thanks to Steve McBrady of ChurchWerks for arranging this session and to Collin McBrady for his monitoring and providing the transcript. EXTRACT
Moderator: Welcome to ChurchWerks Chat with Cardinal Mahony…
Mariette: Does Your Eminence believe there is a place for liturgical dance in the US Church?
Cardinal Mahony: Liturgical dance should never dominate or overwhelm the celebration of the Eucharist. It must be tasteful, and must always lead us to deeper prayer and reflection. A good rule: if liturgical dance leads to applause by the participants, then it failed. VERYIMPORTANT: See my comments on page 15
SPIRITUAL & LITURGICAL TERRORISM
Outrage over Liturgical Dance Fr. Alvaro Delgado, May 2007 http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0507-delgado As a priest who stands in persona Christi to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, I felt disappointed and betrayed when liturgical dancers appeared at the Mass that opened our diocesan synod. The believers present for this Mass deserved to partake of the liturgy under the proper rubrics outlined by the Holy See. It would not be an exaggeration to say these believers were ambushed by an act of spiritual and liturgical terrorism.
Three sets of liturgical dancers waltzed up the aisle at the time of the Presentation of the Gifts. First, three or four young girls and a boy, about 11 or 12 years old, pranced to the altar twirling lit candles through the air in a circular motion. The candle-bearers circled the altar and placed the candles in front of the altar. A second wave of youngsters, holding bowls of incense aloft, also paraded to the altar, repeating the same pattern. 6.
Then came the climactic dance. A boy and a girl, about 14 or 15 years old, came up the center aisle, bearing gifts of bread and wine. I looked for our bishop, and the deacon seated at his side, to rise from their chairs, walk to the front of the altar, and receive the gifts. But they both stayed put. The boy and girl circled the altar, carrying the bread and wine. Finally, they stopped, dead set in front of the altar, facing the people, and hoisted the bread and wine above their heads. Solemn looks crossed their faces as they fixed their gaze upward on the gifts for a long moment. Then they placed the gifts on the altar and returned to their seats. Moments later, the bishop proceeded to the altar and made the official, liturgical offering of the gifts to God. He lifted the gifts above his head, exactly as the boy and girl had done, as seen by hundreds of worshipers from the pews.
With few exceptions, the Holy See has said "no" to liturgical dance.
James Akin, in his book Mass Confusion, notes that the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, in an authoritative 1975 document, cited specific cultures in which liturgical dance has enhanced the liturgy and reflected the religious values of those cultures. But liturgical dance has never been part of the liturgical tradition of the Latin Church, and never been deemed appropriate in the West.
The documents states: "Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders." The document adds that pseudo-ballet, or "interpretive dance," which has been tried in liturgy, is also prohibited. [The article is continued below.]
The Rev. Alvaro Delgado is pastor of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Stockton, California. Previously, he spent 17 years as a newspaper journalist.
Liturgical dance perverts the meaning of the liturgy Semper Fi Catholic -Always Faithful To The Truth Who Is Christ
Posted by Denise, Site Administrator, December 16, 2010. [Continued below from the above article]
James Akin cites three conditions in the document that must be met where liturgical dance is allowed:
(1) it cannot take place during the liturgy;
(2) it cannot take place in strictly liturgical areas, such as the sanctuary;
(3) priests must not participate in the religious dance.
The Church understands that liturgical dance perverts the meaning of the liturgy by turning an act of worship into a performance. This is particularly important in our Western culture, a culture steeped in narcissism and enamored of entertainment.
The Church understands that every symbol, every gesture, every movement of the liturgy carries meaning.
That's why the Church lives by the axiom Lex orandi, lex credendi -- the way we pray and worship has a profound impact on what we believe.
The image of the teenage boy and girl at the altar, with gifts aloft, is now fixed in the minds and subconscious of the worshipers present at that synod Mass. I know I can't erase it from my mind. As I told my bishop in a letter of protest, this liturgical moment will influence the synod delegates' view of liturgy and Church in a most powerful way.
Proponents of liturgical dance say we're made to worship God in body, soul, and spirit -- with our whole being. But with liturgical dance, people's minds are fragmented by the attention they pay to the "performers." Liturgical dance becomes a distraction, an act of sensory stimulation. The pleasure of seeing Junior at the altar hoisting a decanter of wine overwhelms the duty to lift our souls to Almighty God.
Hence, liturgical dance undermines the primordial objective in true worship of God: To adore and place our whole being before Him who transcends our human existence.
We live in a culture that says entertain me, titillate me, stimulate me. If I'm not being entertained, I'm bored; if it's not fun and pleasurable, it's not worth the time or effort. In this culture, it can be exceedingly difficult for the believer to lift up his eyes to God, to worship Him, to prostrate and bend the knee before Him, to surrender to Him in an act of humble adoration.
The impetus of worship becomes not, "What can I do for God?" but rather, "What can God do for me?" 7. In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and future Pope Benedict XVI warns against the "creativity" of the community becoming the driving force in Western liturgy. The liturgy is not to be subject to any human control or contrivance. Narcissism has no part in the worship of God. Ratzinger writes: "In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation."
Ratzinger compares the liturgy to a plant that grows and develops in an organic way. It is not a "specially contrived production," not like a piece of technical equipment that is manufactured.
The presence of liturgical dancers at the synod Mass was, however, a "specially contrived production" in disharmony, in disjunction with the Church's liturgical practice and teaching Tradition. A boy and girl mimicked the actions of the priest at the holy altar by lofting the bread and wine above them. This liturgical abuse was nothing less than a propaganda ploy to advance an agenda for women priests, whether used wittingly or unwittingly at this particular Mass. It traces its origins to the very liberal annual religious education congress sponsored by the Los Angeles Archdiocese, where a similar liturgical dance was presented this year.
It is reminiscent of Mother Angelica's account of being ambushed during World Youth Day at Denver in 1993, via a television image of a "female" Christ-figure carrying a cross during the Stations of the Cross. Somebody choreographed that episode to advance the agenda for women priests. The image was beamed to millions of viewers on Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network. On a smaller scale, the same thing happened to those who attended our diocesan synod Mass.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger makes it clear that God is the primary Actor in the Eucharistic liturgy, through which He seeks to transform us. We are drawn into the action of God, and everything else is secondary, Ratzinger writes. "The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the liturgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point. If the various external actions (as a matter of fact, there are not very many of them, though they are being artificially multiplied) become the essential in the liturgy, if the liturgy degenerates into general activity, then we have radically misunderstood the ‘theo-drama' of the liturgy and lapsed almost into parody."
Ratzinger recounts how, around the third century, heretical Gnostics and Docetists attempted to introduce dance into the liturgy. "For these people, the Crucifixion was only an appearance. Before the Passion, Christ had abandoned the body that in any case he had never really assumed. Dancing could take the place of the liturgy of the Cross, because, after all, the Cross was only an appearance. The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes -- incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy -- none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy of the ‘reasonable sacrifice.'"
We can argue that modern liturgical dance, like the Gnostic-Docetist attempts of old, detracts from the heart of the Mass, which is the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice of the cross. Modern man will do anything and everything to escape the cross and replace its pain with something soothing, something pleasurable to the senses. In a culture that tells us to avoid pain, inconvenience, and hardship at all costs, the liturgy it creates will of course be a feel-good, entertaining experience.
The future Pope writes that it is inappropriate to spruce up the liturgy with "dancing pantomimes" whose performances frequently spark applause. He writes: "Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.... I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance. Which, needless to say, received a round of applause. Could there be anything further removed from true penitence?"
These days, applause threatens to overrun the liturgy at every turn. One pastor at an Elk Grove, Calif., parish allowed liturgical dance, which caused predictable applause. He admonished the congregation for applauding, saying it was inappropriate for liturgy. He tried liturgical dance again, and the congregation again applauded. What was he thinking?
First Communion Masses easily turn into applause-fests. In Colusa and Angels Camp, Calif., every child is applauded for receiving First Communion, and so is every person who had the smallest part in training, teaching, and organizing the First Communion Mass. The focus of the Mass turns to what we have done, how we have acted, and how we should be rewarded. Worship, surrender, thanksgiving, and adoration before God becomes merely an afterthought, as then-Cardinal Ratzinger warns.
At a Pentecost celebration in the San Francisco East Bay several years ago, I experienced the epitome of the narcissistic applause-fest. In theory, on the liturgical calendar, we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit received by the disciples, the birth of the Church. But attention in the homily focused almost exclusively on Catholic Schools Week, and the teachers who were singled out at this Pentecost Mass with awards were showered with repeated applause. The Holy Spirit was overshadowed by human actors, the teachers, all of whom were feted and applauded. This was a mockery of the liturgy of Pentecost, a liturgy of thanksgiving for the gift of God received.
At Funeral Masses, the sacred paschal mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ is often a footnote to secular eulogies that canonize the deceased and draw exuberant applause and laughter. The liturgy becomes simply a going-through-the-motions of an irrelevant spiritual ceremony with no bearing on people's real lives, a prelude to the main, secular event that is this-worldly, "relevant," and entertaining.
The virus of narcissism has spread even to the Hispanic community, a community of traditional piety and reverence. Cameras flash away at Baptisms and quinceañeras, the coming-of-age Masses for 15-year-old girls. The participants in the liturgy become the center of attention, simpering and preening for the camera.
Liturgical dance is seen to add spice and interest to the Mass, helping make the Mass a viable, attractive consumer product in the American market. This leads us further down the road traveled by many Protestant churches, where the goal is an ever-larger share of the religious consumer market.
Religion becomes not the worship and adoration of God but a place to feel good. A place to be massaged, affirmed. A place for the wounded psyche. A place offering spiritual therapy and diversion rather than substance and a reorientation to God, to the transcendent.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times referred to the Internet Evangelism Coalition, an amalgamation of different Protestant groups that promotes use of the Internet to spread the Gospel. The Coalition says you shouldn't sound preachy and you should avoid "churchy jargon" such as "ministry," "salvation," "redemption," and even "faith." The way to attract nonbelievers? Present church as an upbeat, uplifting community of friends.
A specialist in church advertising was quoted as saying that people often perceive church as boring, judgmental, and irrelevant. He said: "New media's a great way to reposition ourselves." While we're at it, throw in a few dancers to keep the people from getting bored. More than 60 percent of Protestant churches spice up their services with video clips on large screens, the article notes. But to what effect?
As a Catholic priest, I felt betrayed by the spectacle of liturgical dancers because the symbolism of the priest acting in persona Christi was diminished. If you diminish the priest, you diminish the importance of Jesus Christ. Remember that the boy and girl who brought up the bread and wine did not present the gifts to the celebrant at the Mass, the bishop, standing as the liturgical representative for Jesus Christ. They had no need of someone to receive the gifts for placement on the altar. So it seemed liturgically redundant for the bishop to hold the gifts and offer them up a second time.
The visual impression, its impact, was unmistakable. If a man who is a priest can offer the Body and Blood of Christ at the Mass, then why can't a layman, why can't a woman? Why only a priest? As I wrote to my bishop, one could conclude that anybody can lead the celebration of the liturgy. Why, then, a need for an ordained priesthood?
Why then the need for a Mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ? Reduce the importance of Jesus Christ and the community takes center stage. We're left with a community feeling good about itself, entertaining itself, making itself feel good. And we've whittled away the importance of adoration and worship before Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the liturgy. 9. Living the Eucharistic mystery
(Homily at the Closing Solemn Mass of the FABC* IX Plenary Assembly in Manila, 16 August 2009)
http://www.rcam.org/news/2009/FABC/living_the_eucharistic_mystery_homily_cardinal_arinze.html EXTRACT 4. Eucharistic Celebration and Inculturation
The Second Vatican Council calls forhealthy inculturation also in matters liturgical. "Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community. Rather, she respects and fosters the spiritual adornments and gift of the various races and peoples" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37).
Asian cultures have many values highlighted in our discussions in the past six days; such as a sense of the sacred and the transcendent, contemplation, mysticism, silence, a sense of living traditions and organic development and gestures and postures which enhance celebration. The Colombo Liturgical Convention of September 2008 already mentioned gives importance to this question in paragraphs 1 to 6 of his final statement.
Liturgical inculturation is demanding. The Bishops’ Conference of the country in question has first to set up a multi-disciplinary study committee of theologians, liturgists, biblical scholars, musicians, ethnologists and experts in literature, which ponders over a cultural question indicated by the bishops and eventually makes a recommendation to the Bishops’ Conference. After adequate study of the document, the Bishops see if they can gather at least two-thirds of their votes in favor. If the outcome is positive, the Bishops bring the entire matter with their proposals to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Only when this Congregation gives its recognition may the cultural element in question be introduced into sacred worship. The major Church documents that give directives on how inculturation is to be made are Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37-40, the 1994 Instruction: Roman Liturgy and Inculturation, and Chapter IX of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.
If these directives are followed, the local Church will be spared questionable or downright mistaken innovations and idiosyncracies of some enthusiastic cleric whose fertile imaginations invents something on Saturday night and whose uninformed zeal forces this innovation on the innocent congregation on Sunday morning.
Dance in particular needs to be critically examined because most dances draw attention to the performers and offer enjoyment.
People come to Mass, not for recreation but, to adore God, to praise and thank him, to ask pardon for their sins, and to request other spiritual and temporal needs. The monasteries may be of help in how graceful body movements can become prayer. The Colombo statement quoted above remarks: "When pastoral zeal combines with cultural and religious sensitivity, new ground is broken. On the contrary, hasty and un-reflected changes weaken or damage the religious significance and life-transforming power of worship" (Colombo Statement, 6).
*Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences CARDINAL ARINZE CAUTIONS ASIAN BISHOPS AGAINST FALSE
INCULTURATION, LITURGICAL DANCE
August 17, 2009 http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=3793,
Cardinal Francis Arinze, who served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2002 to 2008, warned the bishops of Asia in an August 16 homily against liturgical "idiosyncracies" and false conceptions of inculturation.Cardinal Arinze also sounded a cautionary note against liturgical dance.
Preaching in Manila at the closing Mass of the plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, Cardinal Arinze -- Pope Benedict’s special envoy to the meeting -- encouraged Asian bishops to foster Eucharistic adoration and reverence:
Adoration manifests itself in such gestures in genuflection, deep bow, kneeling, prostration and silence in the presence of the Lord. Asian cultures have a deep sense of the sacred and transcendent. Reverence in Asia to civil authorities sometimes shows itself in clasped hands, kneeling, bows, prostration and walking away while facing a dignitary. It should not be too difficult to bring and elevate this cultural value to honour our Eucharistic Jesus. 10. The fashion in some parts of the world of not installing kneelers in churches should not be copied by the Church in Asia.
After praising Asian cultures’ sense of the sacred, Cardinal Arinze warned against false conceptions of inculturation and urged observance of liturgical norms.
The way in which Holy Communion is distributed should be clearly indicated and monitored and individual idiosyncracies should not be allowed. In the Latin Rite, only concelebrating priests take Holy Communion. Everyone else is given, be the person cleric or lay.
It is not right that the priest discard any of the vestments just because the climate is hot or humid. If necessary, the Bishop can arrange the use of lighter cloth. It is altogether unacceptable that the celebrant will opt for local dress in the place of universally approved Mass vestments, or use baskets, or wine glasses to distribute the Holy Eucharist. This is inculturation wrongly understood.
"It is the tradition of the Church that during the Mass the readings are taken only from Holy Scriptures," Cardinal Arinze continued. "Not even the writings of the Saints or Founders of Religious Orders are admitted. It is clear that the books of other religions are excluded, no matter how inspiring a particular text may be."
Cardinal Arinze exhorted the continent’s bishops to follow the Church’s norms for liturgical inculturation, so that "the local Church will be spared questionable or downright mistaken innovations and idiosyncracies of some enthusiastic cleric whose fertile imaginations invents something on Saturday night and whose uninformed zeal forces this innovation on the innocent congregation on Sunday morning."
"Dance in particular needs to be critically examined because most dances draw attention to the performers and offer enjoyment," he continued. "People come to Mass, not for recreation but, to adore God, to praise and thank him, to ask pardon for their sins, and to request other spiritual and temporal needs. The monasteries may be of help in how graceful body movements can become prayer."
Also at: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2009/08/cardinal-arinze-cautions-asian-bishops.html HAS LITURGICAL DANCE BEEN APPROVED FOR MASSES BY YOUR
Wide-ranging questions on the Liturgy were answered by Cardinal Francis Arinze at a conference in July 2003 sponsored by the Apostolate for Family Consecration.
CARDINAL ARINZE:There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass. The question of dance is difficult and delicate. However, it is good to know that the tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance. It is something that people are introducing in the last ten years -- or twenty years. It was not always so. Now it is spreading like wildfire, one can say, in all the continents -- some more than others. In my own continent, Africa, it is spreading. In Asia, it is spreading. Now, some priests and lay people think that Mass is never complete without dance. The difficulty is this: we come to Mass primarily to adore God -- what we call the vertical dimension. We do not come to Mass to entertain one another. That's not the purpose of Mass. The parish hall is for that. So all those that want to entertain us -- after Mass, let us go to the parish hall and then you can dance. And then we clap. But when we come to Mass we don't come to clap. We don't come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need.
Don't misunderstand me, because when I said this at one place somebody said to me: "You are an African bishop. You Africans are always dancing. Why do you say we don't dance?"
A moment -- we Africans are not always dancing! [laughter]
Moreover, there is a difference between those who come in procession at Offertory; they bring their gifts, with joy. There is a movement of the body right and left. They bring their gifts to God. That is good, really. And some of the choir, they sing. They have a little bit of movement. Nobody is going to condemn that. And when you are going out again, a little movement, it's all right.
But when you introduce wholesale, say, a ballerina, then I want to ask you what is it all about. What exactly are you arranging? When the people finish dancing in the Mass and then when the dance group finishes and people clap -- don't you see what it means? It means we have enjoyed it. We come for enjoyment. Repeat. So, there is something wrong. Whenever the people clap -- there is something wrong -- immediately. When they clap -- a dance is done and they clap. 11.
It is possible that there could be a dance that is so exquisite that it raises people's minds to God, and they are praying and adoring God and when the dance is finished they are still wrapped up in prayer. But is that the type of dance you have seen? You see. It is not easy.
Most dances that are staged during Mass should have been done in the parish hall. And some of them are not even suitable for the parish hall.
I saw in one place -- I will not tell you where -- where they staged a dance during Mass, and that dance was offensive. It broke the rules of moral theology and modesty. Those who arranged it -- they should have had their heads washed with a bucket of holy water! [laughter]
Why make the people of God suffer so much? Haven't we enough problems already? Only Sunday, one hour, they come to adore God. And you bring a dance! Are you so poor you have nothing else to bring us? Shame on you! That's how I feel about it.
Somebody can say, "But the pope visited this country and the people danced". A moment: Did the pope arrange it? Poor Holy Father -- he comes, the people arranged. He does not know what they arranged. And somebody introduces something funny -- is the pope responsible for that? Does that mean it is now approved? Did they put it on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go. Liturgical Dance and Inculturation http://www.evangelizationstation.com/Pamphlets/518%20Liturgical%20Dance%20and%20Inculturation.pdf Most Rev. Peter John Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Australia: Liturgical dance during Mass
Question: Is liturgical dancing permitted during Mass?
Answer: This short question opens the whole problem of appropriate inculturation and there can be no brief answer to it. The best approach would be to make a clear distinction between liturgical dancing in the West and religious dancing in other cultures in the wider world. a) Let us begin in the West. In 1975 there was a negative reply to your question from the then Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Dance in the Liturgy. The profane and erotic elements in dancing in the West were cited and the distracting nature of this dancing and its worldly associations were adduced as a strong reason against it.
This was a reaction against the fad of liturgical dancing in the 1970s which continued in some places during the 1980s. I well recall various attempts at liturgical dancing in those years. Some were incongruous, even embarrassing, for example, when a gowned youth was surrounded by swaying damsels just after Holy Communion and at the jubilee Mass of a very embarrassed elderly Bishop. But I have also seen this dancing carried out well; for example, children trained to dance reverently and wave palms in a Palm Sunday procession. One of France’s well-known liturgists promoted a skilled professional dancer who obviously prayed through her every gesture and movement. These last examples did not take place during Mass.
But the issue is neither skill nor aesthetic quality. Something has “gone wrong” here, and this makes many people feel uncomfortable when they see liturgical dancing. So we have to ask deeper questions that go beyond whether this is permitted according to liturgical law.
In Western society we should ask an initial question: What is liturgical dancing meant to convey? Our habit of watching someone dance, our ballet tradition, seems to cause problems once dancing enters worship. The liturgical dance becomes a spectacle. Is this meant to teach us, to inspire us or to entertain us? When it ends with applause it has obviously entertained us. It may have been done well, or, as I also recall, it may have involved the children of admiring mothers! But that applause shows that it is not liturgical. This presentation has become a form of religious ballet, a show, an item on the program. This dancing may find a legitimate place in religious theater, such as a medieval mystery play, but not within theaction of holy Mass.
Western Context of Liturgical Dance
We may therefore ask a more basic question: What is liturgical dancing meant to do?
Here we need to take account of the modern crisis of Christian worship, which largely revolves around a disastrous overstatement of the instructional dimension of worship.
12. This problem still plagues us — words and more words, the altar turned into a pulpit, the personality cult of the "presider," trite songs and rationed silence. Therefore it is interesting, and not surprising, that liturgical dancing spread in the West at the very time when ceremonial and ritual actions were being rejected and when language came to dominate Catholic worship.
Here I would honor the intentions of some who promoted liturgical dancing in the unfortunate years of "experimentation" and desacralization. They at least were trying to resacralize the liturgy by giving it back some sense of movement and ceremony. They knew that ceremonial is a specific religious spectacle where watching can be active participation. I believe they were trying to fill the vacuum left by stripped sanctuaries and Masses reduced to a talk show. One only had to listen to the rationale they presented to justify their dancing. Some described the movements of the old High Mass as a "solemn holy dance," and there is some wisdom in that unusual perception. But when the argument shifted to the "dancing altar boys of Seville" or the swaying Shakers, this seemed to be appealing to obscure exceptions to set up a general rule.
Religious dance vs. Western liturgical dance
Putting it simply, religious dance is not a normal part of Western culture and thus"liturgical dancing" can find no place in the celebration of holy Mass and the sacraments. This is not to exclude it absolutely from religious experience. In a reverent and skilled form, it may be appropriate in a paraliturgy, in religious theater and at grand outdoor events, such as a secondary event in Eucharistic congresses. But within the Eucharistic celebration, the ceremonial itself, the gestures, reverences and processions already there, are enough to make up our sacred "dance before the Lord."
b)When we turn to the wider Church, beyond the West, we find cultures where traditions of religious dance pre-date evangelization. This is where dancing in worship seems "natural"; hence we should cease calling it “liturgical dancing.” It is religious dancing. In these countries in recent decades Christian religious dancing or movement such as swaying, rhythmic clapping, etc., has become well established and it is regulated by the competent authorities, the local Ordinary and the Episcopal conference. But I would underline a major difference between this appropriate inculturation and what happened in the West. This is really religious dance and the people often spontaneously take part in it.
I was particularly impressed by participatory religious dancing at the procession of gifts during some liturgies celebrated in Kenya and by the rhythmic movements of the people during the procession of the gifts in Ghana—a procession involving the whole congregation. This was a participatory activity, not an entertaining spectacle or performance, with self-conscious overtone. This activity does not come under most of the strictures of the 1975 ruling from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
Therefore, in 1994 in the Instruction on Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy, from the same Congregation, we find that dancing may be incorporated into the liturgy where dance is an inherent part of the culture of the people and is not simply a performance. This activity may even be promoted in places where dancing has a religious meaning compatible with Christianity. This cultural context accounts for the positive approach various Episcopal conferences have taken to the question.
Caution on Religious dance
But the same conferences and other authorities have pointed out that even in traditional cultures a blanket approval for all forms of dance during worship must be avoided. Some dances and gestures from pre-Christian traditions relate to cults or worship of false gods, even demons, not to mention the erotic overtones of some dances that would also exclude them from Catholic worship. Borrowing from another religious culture, for example Hinduism, may also raise problems of catechetical confusion or even syncretism.
But when actions and gestures have wider cultural meanings, the Church can sometimes appropriate them, just as she has done over the two millennia of her glorious history.
Therefore, in answer to this simple question, liturgical dancing should not take place during Mass in Western societies, where dancing in this context is not part of the culture. However Christian religious dance may be appropriate, even praiseworthy, in those cultures where it is part of the cultural patrimony and where it is regulated by the Ordinary and the Episcopal conference.
The Evangelization Station, P.O. Box 267, Angels Camp, California, 95222, USA Telephone: 209-728-5598
All bold emphases incolourin the above articles are mine. -Michael Prabhu 13.
Watch this YouTube video, “Liturgical Dancing at its Worst” April 2, 2007:
http://paramedicgoldengirl.blogspot.com/2007/04/liturgical-dancing-at-its-worst.html The above dance was conducted around the Blessed Sacrament. Below, you can find some pictures of these prohibited Western dances that have become commonplace in Latin rite Catholic churches. All of them were performed in the sanctuary/before the altar either outside of or during Holy Mass. http://www.angelqueen.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=101471&sid=5e802d4e13f863e6915ee430e5287f5a:
"Ignatian Retreat" Massin which Fr Robert Ver Eecke, a Jesuit priest dances, Boston, Massachusetts