Varietates Legitimae 41-42: Adaptations in Movement

Let’s now look at what VL has to say about gestures and movements. The CDWDS clearly intends these to be treated differently, but I would stress they are two forms of one aspect. I would also like to consider them in tandem with the musical arts.

41. The liturgy is an action, and so gesture and posture are especially important. Those which belong to the essential rites of the sacraments and which are required for their validity must be preserved just as they have been approved or determined by the supreme authority of the church. (cf. canon 841)

The Church here speaks of gestures such as laying-on-of-hands, the pouring of baptismal water, and the anointings of the various sacraments.

The gestures and postures of the celebrating priest must express his special function: He presides over the assembly in the person of Christ. (cf. SC 33, Canon 899.2)

The gestures and postures of the assembly are signs of its unity and express its active participation and foster the spiritual attitude of the participants. (cf. SC 30) Each culture will choose those gestures and bodily postures which express the attitude of humanity before God, giving them a Christian significance, having some relationship if possible, with the gestures and postures of the Bible.

And these would be gestures of standing, sitting, kneeling, bowing, walking, and the use of hands.

42. Among some peoples, singing is instinctively accompanied by hand-clapping, rhythmic swaying and dance movements on the part of the participants. Such forms of external expression can have a place in the liturgical actions of these peoples on condition that they are always the expression of true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication, and not simply a performance.

I think the CDWDS treads with difficulty here. I would agree that non-traditional movement such as dance need to be rooted in the participation of the assembly. As an art form, is music held to the same standard? And if not, why not dance?



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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