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To Dance With God
Gertrud Mueller Nelson
Family Ritual and Community Celebration
Published by Paulist Press in 1986
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


The title of the book come from Gertrud's 4 year old daughter's mouth when she was asked why she was making a banner - "I'm going to have a parade so that God will come down and dance with me." From that seed the structure for this book grew inside her.

In the early chapters she presents the essentials of ritual: in particular, the answer to "why bother?" Her answer comes from the Pantheon (all-gods) in Rome. The dome was constructed by filling the vault with dirt (with occasional coins scattered throughout), building a dome over the dirt, and then excavating the dirt (the coins were incentives to the excavators- may be the origin of the word "in-cent-ive"). At the peak of the dome a group of statues of Roman gods were placed. Over time the statues fell through the dome leaving a gaping hole -the hole through which the gods came to earth. In medieval times on Pentecost the Christians would drop burning straw through the Holy Ghost Hole and release a white dove signifying the entry of God into the realm of mankind.

In modern churches the fire and the dove are painted on the walls or are represented on banners hung for that occasion.

The "hole in space" through which God comes down to dance with humankind is represented in our homes by the fireplace through which a sanctified man (Santa) enters each year to bless our homes. The "hole in time" is the sacred time-out or holy day (holiday) during which we retreat from the day to day cares to a renewing of our spirits: we provide a hole in time for God to enter our lives to dance with us.

In the remainder of the book, Nelson takes us through the year from Advent to Thanksgiving and provides suggestions for family rituals that provide holes in time and space for us to "dance with God."

The book is illustrated throughout with Gertrud Mueller Nelson's artwork. The art will seem very familiar to Catholics as it has been used extensively to adorn the pages of liturgical missals for the past 20 years.

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