Thursday, November 29, 2007

Liturgy: Dance? In North America or Europe?

I don't check the Francis Cardinal Arinze podcast all that often, but I came across the web site today, and noticed this article: Video: Want to Dance? (Q & A 2007 - part II). I watched the video. The first set of questions had to do with proper procedure during Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; the second set of questions were about dance and secular music in the liturgy; the third had to do with a priest's lack of concern about relativism. Here is a transcript of Cardinal Arinze's response to the question on dance (starting at 3:30 in the feed, about a third of the way in):
Dance is not known in the Latin Rite of the Mass. Our congregation [for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments] has considered it for years. There is no major document of the Church on dance, but the directive we give from our congregation is this: In the strict liturgy -- that means the Mass, the sacraments -- Europe and America should not talk of liturgical dance at all because dance as known in Europe and North America is not part of worship. So they should forget it and not talk about it at all. [applause]

But, it is different in Africa and Asia: not a concession to them, but because their culture is different. If you give a typical African the gifts to bring at Offertory, and you give a typical European the same gifts to bring, if they don't see one another: the European will be rather stiff in walking to the altar; the African is likely to have movement, right, left. It is not a dance, it is a graceful movement to show joy and offering. Also in Asia they have refined movements showing respect, adoration, joy. In Africa all the cultures are not the same. If you are in Ashanti in Ghana, they have some refined movements.

The Bishops of each country have to watch this, knowing that the aim, the reason for Mass, the reasons are four: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and asking for what we need. If the movements help towards that, yes; if they do not, no. Now, if you say dance in Europe and North America, people think of Saturday evening, ballroom dance: one man, one woman. And it is all right as recreation. But we do not come to Mass to enjoy, we don't come to Mass to admire people, and clap for them, and say "Repeat! Repeat! Wonderful! Excellent!" That is all right for the auditorium, for the theater, even for the parish hall... presuming that the dance is acceptable from a moral point of view. Because there are some dances that are wrong everywhere, even in the parish hall and in the theater, because they are provocative unnecessarily. And also in Africa and Asia, every dance is not acceptable. There are some dances that are totally not acceptable in any religious event.

So it differs. But as for North America or Europe, we think that the dance should not enter the liturgy at all, and the people discussing liturgical dance should spend that time saying the Rosary. [laughter and applause] Or they should spend that time reading one of the documents of the Pope on the Holy Eucharist. We have already enough problems; why banalize more, why desacralize more? Haven't we already enough confusion? If you want to admire a dance, you know where to go. But not Mass.
Bravo, good Cardinal! Here's the audio stream:

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