Thursday, 7 February 2019

Laura Hellsten: Dance in the early church - new considerations of patristic resources

Since Johannes Quasten's patristic classic Musik und Gesang in den Kulten der heidnischen Antike und christlichen Frühzeit (1930) most researchers in the field of the early church have considered dancing to be a pagan worship practice with no established place in the official rites of the church. (Rahner 1967, 75-76; Gougaud 1914, 7.) A few exceptions to this can be found in Andrew B. McGowan’s Ancient Christian worship: early church practices in social, historical, and theological perspective (2014) and articles by Donatella Tronca (2016; 2017). In this paper I will expand further on the work already written in Hellsten ‘Dance in the Early Church: Sources and restrictions’ (2016) examining especially the material found on dance in Clement of Alexandria and his the Paedagogos as well as Gregory of Nazianzus Festal Orations. To support my claims I will bring the theoretical frameworks found in Sarah Coakley’s work on asceticism together with Verna Nonna Harrison’s writing on the erotic and mystical divine. This will shed new light not only the above mentioned patristic sources but also lead to a need to re-investigate the sources on dance, gathered in James Miller’s Measures of Wisdom - The Cosmic Dance in Classic and Christian Antiquity (1986). Concluding how dancing needs to be re-examined as one of many contemplative practices of the early church.

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