One language of postmodern times is the celebrative mode of rave
dancing that includes techno music, multi-media, rap and above all,
dance. Dance is an ancient way to pray (post-modern times, unlike the modern period,
does not denigrate premodern peoples but incorporates their wisdom)-in many African languages the word for "dance" is the same as the
word for "breath"which is the same as the word for "spirit." (As it is
Dance/Breath/Spirit-that is the clue to why the TCM replaces pews with
a dance floor and replaces reading with taking in the spirit while
dancing and receiving lessons from images of video and slides. A brief
"teaching" is usually included. The text orientation of modern worship (the modern
age having begun with the invention of the printing press) gives way in the
TCM to context.
By altering the form of worship through
taking in the elements of rave celebrations three things happen: First, new life flows through the
ancient liturgical formulas and second, ravers are relieved of the drug aspect
of raves and learn they can get high on worship itself. Third, the
priesthood is not projected so exclusively onto a single minister but everyone participates in midwifing the grace of the event (no vicarious
prayer!). Because everyone dances, everyone is offering their priestly sacrifice.
A drug therapist for youth
brought fifteen of her clients to a Cosmic Mass. On the way back in the van they said to her: "This is the first
time in our lives we have gotten high without drugs." Getting high is
everyone's right. Transcendence is everyone's need. Our souls want to travel and
drink in big experiences. Worship ought to do this for us. It's
difficult to affect with our noses in books be they prayer books or music books, holy or
unholy books. But getting high on beauty and on dancing (and sweating)
hard is ancient wisdom.
Is this truly a Mass?
Of course it is. If you deconstruct the Mass, taking it apart and looking for its constituent parts, you will find that the
Mass follows the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality: The Via Positiva or celebration of existence (Thomas Aquinas says this is the first
dimension to Worship: To say Thank You for Creation); the Via Negativa or sorrow for sins; the Via Creativa, the blessing of wine and bread as the food of
the Cosmic Christ; and the Sending Off which is the Via
Transformativa. Our first 18 minute dance is during the Via Positiva, the last at the Via Transformativa wherein we receive the energy to be the spiritual
warriors we need to be to transform society after we leave worship. In
between there is a deep experience of shared grief (via negativa) often including
wailing and lamentation and the sharing of communion (via creativa).
People who have attended
the Mass over the years have said things like: "I go to raves regularly but this is what I have been looking for in
raves: deep prayer, a real experience of community, spiritual
depth." Or, "the most powerful part for me was the via negativa. I grieve alone in
my bedroom but no one has ever invited me to grieve in a group
before." Or, "this is a way I can pray with my children.
Finally!" Or "I have not been to communion in twenty years but this was too beautiful not to
participate and I feel so healed."
Themes for the Mass, which
attracts not only many kinds of Christians but also Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, Jews, pagans and goddess
people, are chosen consciously. They have included the following: The
Green Man; Imagination, Dreams and Visions; the Return of the Divine Feminine
(where we danced in the context of 400 images of the goddess from all the world's traditions including of course the Black Madonna and Mary from the
West), the Celebration of the Sacred Masculine, Gaia (usually on Mother's
Day), The African Diaspora, the Wisdom of Rumi and the Sufi Tradition, Kabbalah
and the Jewish Mystical Tradition, Feast of Lights (in December), Celtic Spirituality, Flowers, Plants and Trees, the Holiness of Animals,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, The Sacredness of Our Bodies and more. The themes
universal attraction just as dancing is and worship is. Dancing
of course takes us into our lower charkas where we literally connect with the
earth and so this kind of worship truly serves an ecological era.
One of the most satisfying
aspects of the TCM is the coming together of young and old who work together to plan the celebration (we do one per month). Such a celebration takes up to twenty-five persons with
varying talents ranging from DJ's and VJ's to rappers and electricians,
carpenters and altar builders (in addition to a central altar there are usually at
least four other altars in the four corners to depict the theme of the
Mass), live musicians, theologians, ritual leaders, security, graphic artists and more. A more or less "permanent" team of
seven persons helps plan each Mass and contact the unique "talent" for each
mass. All this work builds community and "liturgy," the "work of the
people" truly happens in
Reinventing Worship has never been so much fun or so much work or so
We hope the day will come when we will
create a "ritual corps" wherein we will take people, many
in their twenties, and request a year or two of service, train them in
the theology and practice of the TCM, and send them on buses to cities
all over America to ignite the fires of worship and community building.
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