I confess my surprise at the popularity of the thread on the dancing wedding procession. I almost didn’t post it; I wasn’t sure what to say about it. Thanks for the many comments.
I thought there were two liturgical aspects touched on that deserve some further discussion. One that can and will be discussed until the end of time, and maybe beyond, is the notion of performance: when does it intrude into liturgy to the detriment of the whole. The other is the aspect of joy, glumness, reverence, apathy, or whatever outward expressions worshipers bring to the liturgy.
My sense is that individuals bring various moods and attitudes to liturgy. Most Catholics feel that the experience of ritual suppresses the outward expression of emotions. So they truly feel inside, but hide it–more or less.
A friend once gave a concert in a church, and as the event went on, was feeling more and more doubtful about the experience. It wasn’t his first concert experience in a church, but he was concerned that the music was a total flop. At the reception afterward, the people were buzzing in excitement. One woman confessed that it took a monumental effort to keep herself from applauding, and those who overheard, were all in agreement.
This wasn’t a ritual event, but it illustrates the nature of the suppression of emotion common across many Christian traditions. Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists: I’ve seen it all there.
Some Christians attempt to break free of this and express the affective dimension of liturgy. Like pre-adolescents at a dance, maybe they’re not so good at it: over-expressing the obvious, grasping for an appropriate way to act. When I go to monasteries, I generally perceive a depth of emotional life that seeps into the liturgy. Monks and nuns aren’t going happy-clappy, but they don’t need to. The joy of the religious life and the community is already present.
Diana expresses what I’ve often experienced:
Just today, I looked at the faces in the pews at Sunday Mass. Not one smile. Even as we sang “Alleluia”–not one visible hint of joy. This happens not just at parish Masses–watch again the installation Mass in DC last week. The assembly and the clergy looked passive and joyless. We have several volunteers who take photos at our diocesan liturgies. In the hundreds of pics they take, it is rare to catch one person with a smile or pleasant look on their face during the liturgies themselves.
I don’t know, but I suspect pre-conciliar liturgies were even more dour. I’m sure it was more culturally reinforced that outward joy, happiness, and pleasure were not part of ordinary worship.
As with the expression of worship in singing, not everyone need bring a spirit of joy to Mass. Individuals may feel like not singing, they may feel unhappy because of or before coming to Mass. If a community weren’t singing–nobody at all–that would be a sign of a grave spiritual lack. Likewise, if nobody felt joy in a community’s worship, I think the same diagnosis might be considered. The culture might be blamed. The lack might be in the spirituality and leadership of priests and musicians.
And I offer a caution: the expression of joy need not be effusive, apparent, or obvious. But if no joy is present, then the sacrifice offered by the people is deficient, as people would seem to be unable to offer their feelings and affective dimension.