Friday, March 6, 2009

Well, since Stand Firm and TitusOneNine will be down for a few hours, here's something to read... (or you can dance to it)

Comments about the revisionist ceremonies at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco (or the "Saint Gregory Company" or whatever) are flying all about. A number of folks are flummoxed by the liturgical dance part. Christopher Johnson has some blog fun with it.

Here's my understanding. St. Gregory of Nyssa's interior space features paintings of many saints, portrayed as if approaching the altar together in this kind of dance. Artistic renditions like this are not new. St. Vibiana's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Los Angeles has a similar motif, albeit involving a procession rather than a dance step. The point is the same - the congregation becomes one with the communion of saints as it approaches the altar.

I have two problems with the dance at St. Gregory's:
  1. Why bother acting out unity with the saints if we don't share what's really important - the apostolic faith? Holy Baptism in the 1979 Prayer Book begins with an affirmation of the New Testament's Letter to the Ephesians: "There is one hope in God's call to us; One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." And the liturgical affirmation of the communion of saints is in the Apostle's Creed, the very statement of faith tossed out of the St. Gregory's ceremony.
  2. Are people required to do this step in order to receive the sacraments? The rite dares not require people to affirm the faith passed down to the church by the saints, but it requires people to learn an eccentric dance step to approach the altar. If the dance step is mandatory, I would argue that it places an unnecessary ritual requirement between the people and God.

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