No touching, but some dancing – 29 April, 2019

It is the day of resurrection, and Mary and the risen Jesus are meeting in the garden. Mary at first, through her tears, mistakes Jesus for the gardener. When Jesus speaks her name, she recognises who he is. Jesus says to her ‘do not keep holding on to me’. The phrase is often quoted in Latin ‘noli me tangere’, or, touch me not’, which carries quite a different meaning.

Mary’s hands reach out towards Jesus. His right hand is blessing her, his left directing her not to keep hold of him. The carving of their robes gives the whole scene great movement, as though they are dancing together. A viewer might be reminded that Miriam and the women danced after God delivered the people of Israel from death when they crossed the Red Sea (a passage read at the Easter Vigil). The idea of life of Christ as a dance has its roots in medieval mystery plays. A common Biblical motif is that God turns mourning into dancing.

This ivory plaque (which in its top half shows the journey to Emmaus) is in the Met Museum, New York. It was most likely made in the early 12thC in Leön, Spain, which is located on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela , possibly part of a reliquary.


There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4


You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

you have loosed my sackcloth

and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30:11-12

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love’s deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.


Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance.


from: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,

Medieval, these words by William B Sandys