LITURGY AND INCULTURATION
Inculturation is quite a new word in our vocabularies. No Church Council prior to Vatican II ever addressed the question of culture. In its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, however, Vatican II begins by situating man in today’s world (par. 4-10) and later addresses itself formally and extensively to the theme of culture in relation to faith (par. 53-62). Inculturation is one of the central issues in Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (On the Evangelization of Peoples) which Pope John Paul II (saint) has called the magna charta of evangelization for the last quarter of the twentieth century.
So central, did Pope John Paul II considered the question of inculturation for the mission of the Church at the present time, that in 1982 he established at the Vatican a Pontifical Council for Culture. At that time he wrote: “Since the beginning of my pontificate, I have considered the Church’s dialogue with the cultures of our time to be a vital area, one in which the destiny of the world at the end of this twentieth century is at stake … For man lives a fully human life thanks to culture. The future of man depends on culture.” Pope John Paul II insisted that “there is an organic and constitutive link existing between Christianity and culture” and that “the synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture, but also of faith. A faith which does not become culture is a faith which has not been fully received, not thoroughly thought through, not fully lived out.” (Letter to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, Secretary of State, 20th May 1982, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, June 28, 1982, pp.7-8).
A Definition of Inculturation
The word “inculturation” was coined in 1962 by the French theologian J. Masson when he called attention to the “need for a Catholicism that is inculturated in a pluriform manner.” In 1973 it was used by G.L. Barney, who wrote that the “supracultural components” of Christianity “should neither be lost nor distorted but rather secured and interpreted clearly through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in ‘inculturating’ them into the new culture.” In 1979 the word was introduced into the official Church documents by Pope John Paul II (St.) who admitted that the word, though a neologism, “expresses one of the elements of the great mystery of the incarnation.”
In the context of theology, A. Shorter defines inculturation as “the creative and dynamic relationship between the Christian message and a culture or cultures.” He notes three traits of inculturation: first, it is an ongoing process that is relevant to every country or region where the faith has been sown; second, Christian faith cannot exist except in a cultural form; and third, between Christian faith and culture there should be reciprocal interaction and integration.
In its concluding declaration the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 offered the following definition of inculturation: “Since the Church is a communion, which is present throughout the world and joins diversity and unity’ it takes up whatever it finds positive in all cultures. Inculturation, however, is different from mere adaptation, as it signifies an interior transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration into Christianity and the rooting of Christianity in various human cultures.” The Synod’s definition contains the basic concept of inculturation, namely the reciprocal integration of pertinent elements between Christianity and culture.
On several occasions Pope John Paul II used the word “inculturation” to express “the incarnation of the Gospel in autonomous cultures and at the same time the introduction of these cultures into the life of the Church.” Echoing the Synod of 1985, he defines inculturation as the “intimate transformation of the authentic cultural values by their integration into Christianity and the implantation of Christianity into different human cultures.
The concept of inculturation is made up of three principal elements. The first is interaction, whereby Christianity and culture enter into dialogue. Inculturation is not one-sided: both parties have something to offer and something to take. It is in the course of this dialogue that Christianity critiques cultural values, patterns, and institutions. It is the stage when, in the light of the gospel, the components of culture such as values, rites, and symbols are examined for their suitability and usefulness. Though mutual respect governs this dialogue, it is clear that not everything in the possession of a given culture is suitable or useful for Christian purposes. Some cultural components might even be incompatible with the Christian tenets. By the way it is important to note that inculturation does not eliminate the countercultural character of Christianity.
LITURGY AND INCULTURATION
CAN A CHRISTIAN POUR LIBATION?
Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu
Bishop of Konongo-Mampong
Libation is a simple rite in which one takes some liquid and pours it on the ground or sometimes on an object while pronouncing some words. The liquid may be palm wine, schnapps, whisky, gin, akpeteshe, or even water. The liquid used for the ceremony must actually be poured out. The idea of pouring out symbolizes destruction, which is found in all forms of sacrifice. The accompanying prayer is most often improvised or inspired by the occasion. But sometimes stereotyped formulae are used, especially on formal and official occasions. These include festival days and the funeral obsequies of some dead person. But whether the prayer is improvised or whether it is a stereotyped formula, the way it is said follows a more or less defined pattern. In general it is enough to mention the name of the person to whom the libation is being poured and then the liquid. Thus one may say, “Ancestor Kwadwo, wine”. This is the shortest form. A slightly longer form is, “Ancestor Kwadwo, receive this wine and drink it”. Sometimes also the addressees are mentioned in the plural, e.g., “All you gods of Ashanti, receive this wine and drink”. The names are mentioned one after the other and a bit of the drink is poured on the ground each time one of them is mentioned.
When all the names have been mentioned, the person pouring the libation continues with his petition. Thus during a child-naming ceremony, one may say, “You have blessed us with this child; do not allow any misfortune to befall him”.
Libation may also take the following form. With water or alcoholic drink in hand, the person pouring the libation raises the drink to God Almighty as he/she says words like these: “We show you drink, we do not offer you drink.” Some then go on to invoke God’s blessing on the drink by saying: “We show this drink to you so that you may touch it and remove from it all evil, so that as we pour it, whatever we say or implore for ourselves may be efficacious unto our good”. Next we have the invocation of the gods and the ancestors and the declaration to them of the purpose of the prayer. Some go on to invoke a curse on all those who out of hatred would wish that nothing good resulted from the gathering.
MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU
BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG
ON 25 MAY 2015 ON THE OCCASION OF
THE OPENING CEREMONY
OF THE FIRST DIOCESAN SYNOP HELD
AT THE SPIRITAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
EJISU, FROM 25 MAY TO 3 JUNE 2015
On 3 March 1995 the Diocese of Konongo-Mampong was erected with territory taken from the then Kumasi Diocese (now the Archdiocese of Kumasi) and from the Diocese of Sunyani. The episcopal ordination of its first bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, took place in Accra on 28 May 1995. Most Rev. Osei-Bonsu was ordained together with four other bishops, namely, Most Rev. Thomas Kwaku Mensah, the Bishop of Obuasi (now Archbishop Emeritus II of Kumasi), Most Rev. Philip Naameh, Bishop of Damongo (now Archbishop of Tamale), Most Rev. Anthony Kwami Adanuty, Bishop of Keta-Akatsi, and Most Rev. Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, Bishop of Jasikan. The installation of Bishop Osei-Bonsu took place at Mampong on 11 June 1995.
The Konongo-Mampong Diocese has been in existence for about twenty years now, and on 13 June 2015 we shall be celebrating twenty years of its existence. As part of the activities marking the twentieth anniversary of the Diocese, a Diocesan Synod, the first of its kind in the Konongo-Mampong Diocese, has been convoked under the theme: “The Catholic Diocese of Konongo-Mampong in Retrospect: Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward”. This is the Synod that we are inaugurating today (25 May 2015) at the Spiritan University College, Ejisu, and that will finish on 3 June 2015.
One may ask: what is a Diocesan Synod? Canon 460 describes a Diocesan Synod as an “assembly” of selected priests and other members of Christ’s faithful of a particular Church which, for the good of the whole diocesan community, assists the diocesan Bishop. Indeed, the purpose of a Diocesan Synod is to assist the Bishop in the exercise of the office proper to him, namely, that of governing the Christian community.