CEBU City, Jan. 28, 2016 – “Inculturate” it or lose it.
Adapting the liturgy to local cultural practices, or “inculturation,” is the key to drawing more people to the Mass, said Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.
How to make the Mass more relatable and interesting has been one of the hot topics of discussion in the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), and Marini is very knowledgeable about the matter, having been master of liturgical ceremonies for two popes: St. John Paul II and the now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Marini wants to go further. “The word used in the Second Vatican Council is ‘active participation.’ To participate in the liturgy is to adapt the liturgy in particular circumstances,” he said in Italian during the press conference on Jan. 25, the second day of the 51st IEC.
The Mass is a simple celebration of rubrics, he pointed out, referring to set instructions and rules on how to celebrate the liturgy. “The liturgies that are not inculturated are lost, just as what happened in North Africa,” he warned.
The current Roman liturgy itself was the product of inculturation, originating from the fifth century, he claimed. There was also the the Byzantine, Alexandrian, and Coptic rites. “There is a need to return to varieties,” he said.
Marini, 74, also served as secretary to Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, one of the Church figures who had worked to reform the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, the result of which is the New Order of the Mass now heard in local languages instead of the old Latin. At the 51st IEC Theological Symposium last week, he recalled the history of the new Mass.
Inculturation was pushed after Vatican II, Marini said, but the process of approving the liturgies for Zaire, India, and the Philippines was “slow.”
Moreover, inculturation needs information. “It is necessary but it is difficult. You have to be prepared. It’s not so easy,” he told CBCP News.
What about the abuses pointed out by critics of liturgical innovation, such as the heavy use of acoustic instruments during youth masses? Marini replied: “The problem is what are the abuse[s]? How is the so-called youth mass?
This is the problem. To inculturate, it is necessary to know.”
Christmas itself is an inculturated celebration, the Vatican official argued.
“It was a pagan feast for the light. The light was coming, the victory of the sun. So they celebrated this victor, the pagan people, and then they translated it in …the Roman Rite. So we celebrate on 24 and 25 of December, not because Christ was born on 25 or 24, but because it was an inculturated feast,” added Marini. (Felipe Francisco / CBCP News)