“Let them praise his name with dancing” (Psalm 149:3)

Re-post from 2011

I love to dance, but I am so bad at it that I rarely get the chance to do so without extreme self-consciousness. Only when I am with my wife, who loves to dance, or when I am alone do feel free enough to allow myself permission to dance. One day, we will take dance lessons.

One of the reasons I love dance is its uselessness and its sheer act of expressiveness. When I dance with my wife, I am able to say with my body: you are a joy to be with. After we dance the night away, I always feel like we celebrated our wedding all over again.

Just like liturgy, dance is a form of play. Play amplifies freedom and creativity and a purposeless celebration of existence. Speaking philosophically, it is an imaginative shrine for choreographed spontaneity that sets you out into an exploration of the vast expanses of the true, the good and the beautiful. How wonderful! In play the dramatic nature of existence is performed with abandon. While there are rules that govern play, the rules are capacious, giving ample space to risk all for the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

Jews know how to dance, always have, always will (Psalm 149:3). The barely dressed King David famously celebrated his liturgical whirl around the Ark of the Covenant, much to his wife Mychal’s chagrin: “And David danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Sam. 6:14).

Romano Guardini famously expressed this playful aspect of liturgy in his book Spirit of the Liturgy:

The liturgy has laid down the serious rules of the sacred game which the soul plays before God. And, if we are desirous of touching bottom in this mystery, it is the Spirit of fire and of holy discipline “who has knowledge of the world”– the Holy Spirit — who has ordained the game which the Eternal Wisdom plays before the Heavenly Father in the Church, God’s kingdom on earth. And “Wisdom’s delight is to be with the children of men” (cf. Proverbs 8:31).

Dance incarnates the play of music in the body, transforming the body into the shape of its rhythms and harmonies. And as we believe the baptized body is a temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and the body is itself to become in all things a liturgical action glorifying God (Rom 12:1; Col. 3:17), I have always believed that when I dance — alone or with my bride — I am enacting, in a singular way, a lived liturgy of praise to God for the beauty and goodness of the world and the world to come.

An African American priest friend of mine once texted me something remarkable. It was the morning after my wife and I had attended our parish festival and had danced for around two hours to live music of a band called Bag of Donuts. It was a blast! He wrote me, “I was praying last night for you and got this crazy sense that Jesus wanted me to tell you to not be afraid to dance like a white boy. That when you get to heaven He wants you to dance. So dance.”

So during my recent silent retreat, I did something new. The retreat house was absolutely empty and so one night I decided to try it out. So I put my headphones on, set my iPhone playlist to songs I like, and danced in the dining room for the next hour. Soaked with sweat and full of joy. It. Was. Awesome.

Likely the first person to ever do such a thing there, but who knows?

If I make it to the Kingdom, though, I want to be taught by Jews to dance. Like this:



11 comments on ““Let them praise his name with dancing” (Psalm 149:3)

  1. Faye says:

    As pertains to dance, check out this Des Moines area opportunity: http://www.swingdesmoines.com/jivejunction.html

  2. A great THANK YOU for the Methodist and physicians establishing a precedent for vacation! This time when activity is suspended benefits the body and soul. Dancing [more generically movement] is a wonderful way to express joy as we remove ourselves from the labor. Imagine the dancing joy which will ensue in the heavenly presence of Jesus? A simple expression of joy becomes a continuous feast.

    The Mass has this joyful movement of dance – standing for prayer, kneeling in reverence or sitting for contemplative listening of the Scriptures. A silent, reflective vacation experienced rather than toil of every day life.

    Unofficially a member of the Catholic Charismatic movement, I occasionally take pleasure in dancing on the wind of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Conversely, sitting before the Blessed Sacrament my body is still, yet my spirit rocks with quiet pleasure being with Jesus in silence.

    So, yes, Catholics should dance often and utilize the many forms of movement already embedded her liturgy, sacramental celebrations and prayers. In this dancing recall today’s Responsorial Psalm and “remember the marvels the Lord has done”. Similar to the marvel experienced by Paul and Silas as they danced in praise of God from prison to freedom. May our dancing create the same earthquake in our spirit and lead us out of the things that spiritually imprison our soul.

  3. Liz Clayton says:

    Wonderful reflection aside..that Interlude dance is ridiculously fun and I'm glad to have some new moves to break out other than the funky chicken at any upcoming weddings.

  4. Oneview says:

    You may be interested to know that, in Iowa, the interlude was first initiated at the University of Northern Iowa, where Bekah will be going this fall!

  5. dryan2015 says:

    For the sake of fairness and rightful claim – that was University of Northern Iowa video not ISU but you got the state right 🙂

  6. WoopieCushion says:

    This made my day in the office just a bit better : ) Meet ya on the dance floor!

  7. number one sinner says:

    At my advanced age I’m afraid a variation of step one is about all I’m capable of . I like to c a ‘ll it the stand still and hold your hands straight out towards the fire move. Ouch my back just spazed. Excuse me while I go lay down. Ouch. Ouch ouch.

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