“Whoever does not dance, does not know what is coming to pass. Amen”
(Saying attributed to Jesus in The Acts of St. John)
—Don E. Saliers, Liturgy as Holy Play
Many thanks to Don E. Saliers for his work and thoughts on “holy play.”
In our routine gathering of worship, we often misunderstand that community is, at its heart, what Romano Guardini called “holy play”?1 Because we want to take seriously the pain, anxiety, and terror in the world, our worship is often sober, reaching out to those suffering. We have trouble finding our footing with a lightness of being that includes sober seriousness about realities in the world. We forget that in Scripture community worship is marked by “respect and joy, not always ecstatic or fully expressed, but capable of deep communion. God’s invitation is always to dance and sing, in lamentation, in solemn thanksgiving and in playful ecstatic praise.” 2 As His church, we do well with lamentation and solemn thanksgiving. We don’t do so well with ecstatic praise.
All of this takes us back to where we began earlier in this blog…aware that we need God to form in us a readiness of mind which grows from an ever-expanding appreciation for His never-ending gifts!
Oh, that our hearts would be palpably hungry for more of those rare glimpses of His gifts of love – the ones that startle us, stop us and threaten the safe confines we’ve established for ourselves. That we would lean into the dearness of His love and bathe in the wonder and delight that puts us so solidly in touch with what it is to be human in the presence of God. That’s where freedom lies. That’s where roominess for others replaces the intensity of our self-concerns. It’s where we are joined, united with and caught up in the story that is not only larger than us, but pulsing with love and yearning for the world. And It’s where we see God extending an eternal invitation to dance and sing…in sorrow…in thanksgiving…in uninhibited praise…together.
This is true hilaritas (Latin for cheerfulness). The glad confidence that is rooted in impossible redemption, immersed in wonder, freed from preoccupation with self and reaching for the world. I wonder what the impact of the church would be if we looked like that?
ACTION: Draw a picture or write a story about one time when you encountered God’s love in a way that adjusted your inner direction. How did this affect your relationships? What shifted in the way you related to those around you?
1 Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 85-106
2 Don E. Saliers, Liturgy as Holy Play, “Weavings,” vol ix, number 6, p. 41.