Dancing around the altar

Can a layman approach the altar of a church that has a consecrated Eucharist on it and dance around it in worship. Last year this was done by myself and other catholics at a charismatic renewal event during the day of pentecost. After the celebration I had second thoughts and now wonder if that was right according, to the traditions, canon law, and the teachings of the church. What does the church teach concerning the altar.

Note that the dancing was not done during the liturgy it was done whIle the Eucharist was exposed at the altar.


I would NOT think this is right!


From what little I know, the rubrics say nothing about liturgical dances at any point during the Mass.

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I agree I think there is a rule about no dancing during mass

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I would have thought y’all kneeling in Adoration, Praise, Glory of Our Lord and prayer would have been better.


Yes that’s also what I was thinking after all the dancing.

Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship

The following essay appeared in “Notitiae” 11 (1975) 202-205, and is labeled as a “qualified and authoritative sketch.” It is the mind of the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship (presently called Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) that this article is to be considered “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.” Therefore, it is commended for study by diocesan liturgical commissions and offices of worship. (This English translation first appeared in The Canon Law Digest, Vol. VIII, pp. 78-82).


The dance can be an art: a synthesis of the measured arts (music and poetry) and the spatial arts (architecture, sculpture, painting).

As an art which, by means of the body, expresses human feelings, the dance is especially adapted to signify joy.

Thus, among the mystics, we find intervals of dancing as an expression of the fullness of their love of God. Recall the cases of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, St. Gerard Majella.

When the Angelic Doctor wished to represent paradise, he represented it as a dance executed by angels and saints.

The dance can turn into prayer which expresses itself with a movement which engages the whole being, soul and body. Generally, when the spirit raises itself to God in prayer, it also involves the body.

One can speak of the prayer of the body. This can express its praise, it petition with movements, just as is said of the stars which by their evolution praise their Creator (cf. Baruch 3:34).

Various examples of this type of prayer are had in the Old Testament.

This holds true especially for primitive peoples. They express their religious sentiment with rhythmic movements.

Among them, when there is a question of worship, the spoken word becomes a chant, and the gesture of going or walking towards the divinity transforms itself into a dance step.

Among the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers and in the conciliar texts there is mention of dancing, an evaluation of it, a comment on the biblical text in which there is an allusion to the dance; more frequently there is a condemnation of profane dances and the disorders to which the dances give rise.

In liturgical texts, there are at times allusions to the dance of the angels and of the elect in paradise (cf. “Among the lilies thou dost feed, surrounded by dancing groups of virgins”) in order to express the "joy and the “jubilation” which will characterize eternity.

Dancing and Worship

The dance has never been made an integral part of the official worhship of the Latin Church.




If local churches have accepted the dance, sometimes even in the church building, that was on the occasion of feasts in order to manifest sentiments of joy and devotion. But that always took place outside of liturgical services.

Conciliar decisions have often condemned the religious dance because it conduces little to worship and because it could degenerate into disorders.

Actually, in favor of dance in the liturgy, an argument could be drawn from the passage of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in which are given the norms for adaptation of the liturgy to the character and the traditions of the various peoples:

“In matters which do not affect the faith or the well-being of an entire community, the Church does not wish, even in the Liturgy, to impose a rigid uniformity; on the contrary, she respects and fosters the genius and talents of various races and people. Whatever in their way of life is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error, she looks upon with benevolence and if possible keeps it intact, and sometimes even admits it into the Liturgy provided it accords with the genuine and authentic liturgical spirit.”[1]

Theoretically, it could be deduced from that passage that certain forms of dancing and certain dance patterns could be introduced into Catholic worship.

Nevertheless, two condition could not be prescinded from.

The first: to the extent in which the body is a reflection of the soul, dancing, with all its manifestations, would have to express sentiments of faith and adoration in order to become a prayer.

The second condition: just as all the gestures and movements found in the liturgy are regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, so also dancing as a gestre would have to be under its discipline.


I like Cardinal Arinze on this:

“Dance is not known in the Latin Rite of the Mass… Our Congregation has considered it for years… the directive we give from our Congregation is this: in the strict Liturgy, that means the Mass, the sacraments, Europe and America should not talk of Liturgical Dance at all…”


@DeaconJeff what about dancing on the altar.


Your answer was supplied by @DeaconJeff and the poster right after.

Assuming you’re speaking of the Roman Rite in the United States, no, there absolutely should not be any dancing around the altar during Mass.

With that said, what you did was certainly a form of heteropraxis, but you didn’t know any better so it wasn’t sinful. Just learn from this and don’t do it again.


NEVER NEVER NEVER! If you are talking physically getting up on the altar and dancing. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO way! Our Lord is consecrated on the altar!


That would not only be heteropraxis and imprudent, that would be a downright blasphemous sacrilege.

If I was ever at a Mass and somebody started dancing on the altar, I’d get up and physically remove them.


Meh, passé. Been done.

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Lol, that’s not an altar though it’s just a coffee table…

Looks like some strange sort of Protestant charismatic group.

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The word “ charismatic “ - seems to give certain people certain odd rights -

Dancing around the most holy altar - that celebrates our Lord’s death -
No way.

Like dancing on someone’s grave.



Even in the cultures where dancing is inculturated into the Mass, as far as I’m aware they don’t dance anywhere near the altar.

I saw a video where Pope Benedict was in the Polynesian islands and at the presentation of the gifts they danced around and walked up the center of the nave… It was actually very solemn, impressive and reverent though, and it wasn’t awkward or out of place like the “liturgical dancers” I’ve seen in other videos.


Maybe (that’s a big “maybe”) in places like Africa, where liturgical dance is common, but absolutely never in the West is it permitted.


It was melanesians in Fiji, and it was during the Gospel procession so during the Liturgy of the Word, not the Eucharistic Liturgy. And they stopped between the nave and sanctuary, they didn’t dance around the altar.

I read that the dance they did was the traditional Melanesian dance for greeting a King visiting their country from another land.


The dancing was not during a mass.

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