In God’s House


I’m sure like me you have watched the video of the couple who danced down the aisle at the start of their wedding ceremony. The Washington Post hailed the video as a picture of unbridled joy. Christian bloggers are questioning the appropriateness of such a dance in a Church. If you have not seen the video. You can find it here.

Is there a place for dance in Church? Sometimes, yes.  The first liturgy I attended at Saint Peter’s in Rome was the closing Mass of the Synod on the Church in Africa in 1991. The liturgy began with a liturgical dance in which the dancers gave thanks to God for the gifts of the earth of Africa. Dancers processed in carrying on their head huge baskets of the native fruits of the Africa. Drums beat in thanksgiving for the gift of the music of Africa and the Book of the Gospels proclaimed the gift the Good News to the people of Africa. The procession was magnificent.

Liturgical Dance

Closer to home, I’ve seen liturgical dancers, before the liturgy begins, carry in candles as a celebration of Jesus who is light of the world and we who are the light of Christ for others. Some choirs will process in a simple two-step pattern singing God’s praises.  In cases like this, dance can help raise our minds and hearts to God.

In God’s House

What is so appalling about this choice of dance is that it said nothing about God, it was all about the dancers. It was self-indulgent in a way that has no place in the house of the Lord.  When in God’s house, it’s all about God. We go to church to give praise and thanks to God. We marry in the church to thank God for the gift of our spouse , to ask God to bless the marriage and to to be a part of the every day life of the marriage.  If there is the be dancing, it should be in praise of  God.

Scripture is in fact filled with God’s people dancing in praise at  the right time and in the right place.  The right place and the right time for this procession was at the reception, there, it indeed would have been good fun.

7 Replies to “In God’s House”

  1. Yes, the video goes a long way to show how silly and irreverent some marriages ceremonies have become, without proper liturgical guidance. In my twenty years as a priest I’ve fielded some crazy requests: horse drawn carriages, bubbles, balloon releases. When I was asked about a horse drawn carriage on the property I had to ask if there would also be a glass slipper 🙂 By the way, I said no. You’re right Susan the focus is to be on God and what he is doing. Too many weddings can become egocentric. Funerals are getting “sillier” too.

    As for Liturgical Dance, which this wedding video emphatically was not, I too have seen excerpts of African processions and they can be quite praise filled. Interestingly enough Cardinal Arinze, who has been quite a critic of Liturgurical Dance was the Celebrant of the Mass in St Peters you cited. When asked why he permitted something he thinks is wrong he said the it is different for Africans and Asians than in the west. For them this dance is sacred but in the west no. Of course here in America such distinctions are more more difficult. My parish is African-American, I know of several parishes which have large numbers of African Imigrants. At my parish we do have ocassional liturgical dance at the offertory, but it is reverent by modestly clothed individuals and it is directed to God as worship. It is not some “look at me” thing like we saw in the video.

  2. When I first saw this video and read the very contrasting comments on YouTube, it put me in mind of 2 Samuel 6 where King David is criticised for the “vulgar” manner in which chose to express himself during worship.

    I find the whole area of liturgy so interesting because it is so immensely complicated. In many ways it is conditioned by both the prevailing culture and the current point in history, yet so many things are also clearly timeless. There also always seems to be a constant tension between order and dynamism in worship – St. Paul himself dedicated much time to discussing “orderly” worship when he wrote to the Corinthians (quite a bit of which would raise a few eyebrows in pews today).

    I guess the question I’m asking is: what makes one dance a dance of thanksgiving to God and another one inappropriate? How do you discern intent? Very tricky. So, although this video is definitely “out there”, I’m not sure if I’d ever be quite brave enough to label it as either “appalling” or “self-indulgent”.

    1. Casting Crown,

      Thanks for your comment, I think the test is “reverence”. When we come before God, how do we express reverence?


    2. Yes, I guess you and I struggle over the same issue. This dance is out of place by my standards but we don’t have clear metrics as to exactly what is too far. For me reverence and focus on God, not man, is essential

  3. Their dance may not have spoken to the name of the Lord, however they performed it in the house of the Lord, therefore is it not a celebration in two lives being joined by God? Is it not a celebration unto the Lord for the thanksgiving of the waiting they have done their whole lives waiting for each other? Unlike so many others in the world today, who try to mar and tear down the sanctity of marriage – they chose to celebrate and marry within the house of the Lord and have their union blessed. I think I choose to take the stance that Jesus taught us long ago and “cast not the first stone.” I believe there are many more pertinent subjects that are bringing not only the Catholic church but Christendom as a whole to its knees. Perhaps our angst should be focused on these subjects – so that the enlightenment may be garnered. Focusing on one act in a marriage ceremony – which that is all that we were shown was this one dance – does not speak to what the entire ceremony was about nor what was celebrated after the dance. So do we really have a basis to start throwing stones when we don’t know the “rest of the story”? I think not…

    1. Vonna,
      I think your remarks are not without wisdom. Liturgy is an important concern for the Church and I DO thiink we need to gently correct and set proper limits and decorum. However, as you note, we also need to be careful to remember to affirm that we can and should focus on even more fundamental issues with as much energy and gusto (or more) as we focus on liturgical debates. Otherwise we risk are just debating about what wallpaper to put in the kitchen while the house is on fire! My previous response to Susan’s excellent post also contains this premise. Liturgical dance is something we need to approach carefully since there are many different sensibilities. In my own parish is it a greatly appreciated aspect of liturgy and is done well and reverently. As for your observation that they chose to celebrate their union in the house of God I also have some sympathy but also must add that, from my own 20 years of experience that some couples sadly are not announcing their faith even when having the marriage in Church. Sometimes it is more a matter of convenience, or a nice backdrop for the photos. Hence, a good pastoral preparation is necessary to sort all this out. Without it some couples “use” the Chruch and the Church, in setting no limits, merely confirms them in their misunderstandings about the importance of faith and the true meaning of sacrament of marriage. I guess pastoral CARE is the imperative word. A sensitive but clear preparation as to the meaning of both liturgy and sacrament.

  4. Vonna, thanks for joining the conversation. I agree that we are blessed that they chose to marry in the house of the Lord. I think of a homily I heard in which the preacher said, we should not build a wall between what goes on outside the house of the Lord and what goes inside the house and I think that is right, but as I said in the earlier comment, I think any dance should be explicit in its Godly focus.

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