A hallmark of Pope john paul ii's pontificate has been his extensive travels to the local churches on nearly every continent. Central to these visits are major liturgical celebrations that draw upon local culture to express the genius of the local churches. At the opening and closing of the special assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, the Eucharistic liturgies took up the particular cultural expressions, at the pope's expressed wishes (Ecclesia in Africa, no. 25). At the opening of the Holy Door to commence the Jubilee Year, African horns and signs of reverence from Asia and Oceania emphasized the universality of the salvation and the mission of the Church to the whole world.
Throughout the history of Christian worship, liturgy and culture have always been intricately entwined: the culture of a given group of people yielded great influence on the forms, symbols, language, time and place of their worship. With the documents of the Second vatican council, the imperative of liturgical inculturation gained unparalleled impetus and theological articulation. This entry first takes up the issue of terminology surrounding the notion of liturgical inculturation. After considering historical evidence of the interaction of liturgy and culture, it presents the documents of Vatican II and the instruction on inculturation and liturgy. Then, it examines recent attempts at liturgical adaptation throughout the world.
Problem of Terminology. The term "inculturation" is an ambiguous neologism that arose in the 1960s. When one examines conciliar texts, one observes that the terms aptatio ("adaptation") and accomodatio ("accommodation") are used interchangeably to refer to the Church's task of aggiornamento and the whole process of liturgical change. After the council, the term aptatio came to refer to the task of the local bishops, part of the revitalization envisioned by the council, and accomodatio came to refer to the provisions in the typical editions of the Roman liturgical books for the minister to select alternatives in the local celebration of the liturgy.
Following A. Chupungco, adaptation is a culturally neutral term that refers to the Church's whole renewal. Different terms have been coined to speak of the methods of that renewal. The term "inculturation" was coined to refer to the need to keep the Christian message intact through the process of cultural exchange. In 1975 at the Thirty-second General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, the Latin word inculturatio was adopted in the discussions, probably the equivalent of the English "enculturation" (Roest-Crollius 1978). As A. Shorter explains, "enculturation" is a technical anthropological term for the socialization of a person, the way that the person is inserted into her or his culture (1988). "Inculturation" soon replaced "enculturation" in missiological, theological, and liturgical discourse and took on an entirely different meaning. Pope John Paul II introduced the term into Church documents in a 1979 address to the Pontifical Biblical Commission and later that year elaborated on it in Catechesi tradendae, no. 53.
In current liturgical discourse, the following principle terms are used to name the levels of interaction of liturgy and culture: acculturation, inculturation and creativity. The term "acculturation" refers to the interaction that ensues from the juxtaposition of two cultures (Shorter 1988; Chupungco 1989). Acculturation names the initial stage of the encounter of the Roman liturgy with the local culture. The liturgy of the Roman Latin typical editions is placed side by side with elements from the culture where they interact but neither the liturgy nor the culture is assimilated into the other. The initial interaction of the liturgy and the local culture could then lead to inculturation, that is, the liturgy is so inserted into the culture that it would absorb the genius of the culture and the culture would be affected by the liturgy. Yet, the liturgy would not become the culture nor the culture the liturgy; rather, both would undergo a process of internal transformation to shape something new (Chupungco 1993). Neither the liturgy nor the culture would lose their identities, but they would no longer be what they were before. The liturgy would be so inserted into the cultural frame that it might speak, sing and move according to the people's language, thought, rites, symbols, gestures and arts. Liturgy would thus ritualize according to the local cultural pattern. Some scholars go on to name a third phase, that of creativity. Here, the liturgical rites are fashioned independent of the Roman ordo and euchology. At this stage, the Christian faith might be embodied in the local culture in such a way that new forms of expressing it emerge and so enrich the Church universal. The task of inculturation is ongoing: in the process of mutual assimilation, dimensions of the culture will undergo transformation in light of the memories, values and hopes negotiated by the liturgy ordered in the typical editions and by the proclamation of the Gospel. Likewise, the culture will more authentically embody the Christian faith.
Liturgy and Local Church in History. Christian worship has always interacted with cultures, adapting cultural elements, transforming them and even rejecting them. Christian worship originated in the culturally plural matrix of Palestinian Judaism, Hellenism and Roman imperialism. As Christianity quickly spread through the Mediterranean basin into Asia Minor, Africa and east to Syria, the regional styles of worship, already influenced by Jewish forms, developed according to the cultural genius of the local churches. The local churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Edessa, Milan, Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople generated distinctive liturgical usages that could be classified as families of rites. The content and rhetoric of euchology, the anaphoral structure, the order of worship at eucharist and initiation, the times and seasons of prayer each varied according to the different churches.
The Roman rite itself bears the marks of cultural adaptation. While the locus of imperial power shifted to Constantinople, the influence of pagan Roman culture on Christian worship and ministry in the church at Rome was considerable. With the invasion of the northern peoples, Rome was obliged to open itself to their cultures. At the same time, the liturgy of Rome came to hold a preeminent, if not idealized, position namely other legitimate and integral usages in the northern territories. Roman liturgical books were exported to the Germanic and Gallican churches in the interest of unifying liturgical praxis. The editors charged with preparing the books found themselves confronted with the daunting task of conforming local usage to distinctly Roman practices that were celebrated in the geographical coordinates of the Urbs and suppressing that which did not conform. However, the hallmarks of Roman liturgy—its terse prayers, its sober ritual, and its juridical reserve—were foreign to the Germano-Gallican spirit. Thus, significant adaptations were required and the Franco-Germanic culture was intertwined with the Roman liturgy. The popes adopted this liturgy after systematic abbreviation, and it was passed throughout Europe.
Tridentine Uniformity. With the Council of trent, the liturgy of the Roman church became carefully regulated. The Missal of pius v (1570) was binding on all churches of the west except those that could trace their usages back two hundred years. The use of the vernacular, called for by the reformers, was rejected and the Latin language required. Trent sought to preserve and guarantee the venerable Roman tradition, as it was then perceived. The printing press made the dissemination of the uniform and codified liturgical books in Latin, or editiones typicae, facile. It is important to note that while the codified and uniform Roman liturgy became hegemonic, the relationship between cultic praxis of Christian faith and local culture survived and in many instances flourished on the "unofficial" level of popular devotions, pious practices, pilgrimages and the myriad local feasts and observances.
Missionary encounters with non-western European cultures prompted a reconsideration of the obligation to use the Tridentine forms. The chinese rites contro versy (1603–1742), errupting around Matteo ricci's (1552–1610) efforts of looking within the culture for authentic ways of expressing Christian faith, marks a significant point for the relationship of Roman liturgy and culture. Ricci made allowances for the Chinese Christians to participate in ancestral and Confucian rites. Rome became concerned and in 1742 definitively condemned these usages. The Chinese Rites controversy revealed two crucial developments: first, the imperative of discerning what is essential within the dominant socio-cultural matrix and endeavoring to accommodate it in the Christian tradition. Second, it demonstrated how a thoroughly western, classicist perspective misapprehends the difference of an eastern approach to religion and culture (Luttio 1994).
In the nineteenth century, the issue of the relationship between local usages, the prevailing cultural scene and the codified Roman liturgy arose. In the instance of the revival of "neo-Gallican" usages in France, liturgists, like P. guÉranger, argued that diversion from the pure Roman liturgy was aberrant and needed to be suppressed. The Roman liturgy, which had the approbation of papal authority, was a means to reckon with the prevailing cultural forces: nationalism, liberal bourgeois culture and the irrationality of romanticism. With the stirrings of the liturgical movement, the study of Christian liturgy and concern for participation in worship gave impetus to explore how to make the liturgy an authentic celebration of the people. The discussions at the Assisi Congress of Pastoral Liturgy in 1956 witnessed missionary interest in the relationship between liturgy and culture.
Vatican II. The interaction of the movements in the decades preceding prevailed upon the formulations of Vatican II. As K. rahner observed, Vatican II promised the actualization of the Church as a world Church, not a western European Church. The relationship between the Church and world is reciprocal: the Church acts on the world and the world on the Church. It is this spirit that permeates the documents of Vatican II. The first document issued by the council, Sacrosanctum concilium (SC), is a watershed moment for the relationship between liturgy and culture, but it must also be read in the context of later conciliar decrees.
Sacrosanctum concilium no. 21 states that there are both "unchangeable elements" and "elements subject to change" in the liturgy. Nos. 22–23 take up issues of authority and method. Sacrosanctum concilium posits the authority for change with the Apostolic See and local bishops and insists on the preservation of "sound tradition." Careful investigation through theological, historical and pastoral study must guide revision. Most significantly, if the good of the Church requires, "new forms adopted should in some way grow organically (organice crescant) from forms already existing" (no. 23). Sacrosanctum concilium nos. 37–40 have been called the "Magna Carta" of liturgical flexibility (Chupungco 1982). In this section, a Eurocentric perspective is attenuated: "Even in liturgy the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve faith or the good of the whole community. Rather, she respects and fosters the spiritual adornments and gifts of the various races and peoples." In no. 38, given that "the substantial unity of the Roman rite is maintained," provision is made for legitimate local variations, and adaptations (aptationes) may be made even for the structuring of rites. No. 39 specifies that it is the task of the territorial ecclesiastical authority (that is, the bishops) and that the "limits of the typical editions of the liturgical books" are to be observed. However, no. 40 provides for an "even more radical adaptation (profundior aptatio) " that, developed by competent local authorities, will need the approbation of the Apostolic See.
These texts need to be read in light of other later conciliar documents. Gaudium et spes acknowledges the plurality of cultures (no. 53) and the fact that culture is a human product (no. 55). Most importantly, no. 58 states that the Church and the transmission of the Gospel are not tied exclusively to any one culture or any one way of life, but rather the Church can "enter into communion with various cultural modes, to her own enrichment and theirs, too." While Western culture has been the mediating form of evangelization, other cultures might be capable of handing on the Gospel as well. Lumen gentium no. 26 presents the understanding of the local realization of the universal Church. Ad gentes no. 15 calls for the assemblies of the faithful, "endowed with the riches of its own nation's culture," to be "deeply rooted in the people." No. 19 speaks of the phases of building a community of the faithful and no. 22 relates the nascent churches to the incarnation.
Recent Roman Documents. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) speaks of the context and need for inculturation, echoing contemporary theological and liturgical discourse on the relationship and between faith, liturgy and culture. The theme of diversity and the need for the Church to engage the variety of human cultures peppers the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For example, no. 814, in the context of Church unity, affirms that the Church "from the beginning" has been marked by "a great diversity," different gifts and "multiplicity of peoples and cultures." No. 1075 explains that the Church "aims to serve the whole Church in all the diversity of her rites and cultures." It acknowledges that sacramental signs and symbols are rooted in creation and human culture (no. 1145) and the Church is able to integrate "all the authentic riches of cultures" (no. 1202). "Liturgy requires," it emphasizes, "adaptation to the genius and culture of different people" (no. 1204). In its sensitivity to diversity, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "each Church proposes … according to its historic, social and cultural context, a language of prayer: words, melodies, gestures, iconography" (no. 2663). The need for critique and conversion is also noted (no. 1206; 2820).
In the midst of pastoral initiative and critical theological discourse, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the fourth instruction on the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite," (ILRR). The instruction sets down norms regarding the interpretation and implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 37–40. "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite," has five sections: an introduction with preliminary observations; part one on the process of inculturation throughout salvation history; part two, theological and ecclesiological bases and preliminary conditions for inculturation; part three, principles and practical norms with regard to the Roman rite; and part four, areas open to adaptation in the Roman rite.
In the introduction the document notes the use and meaning of the term "inculturation," explaining that it has a double movement of the Church's introducing the Gospel in the culture and at the same time assimilating the culture's values (no. 4). In number 7, "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite" acknowledges the coexistence of many cultures in the western churches of which the Church must take account, in addition to missionary churches on other continents. After discussing the encounter of Christian faith with various cultures, the instruction offers several theological and ecclesiological precepts concerning relationship between liturgy and the local churches. "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite" emphasizes the need for the proclamation of the scriptures in the local language as the first step of inculturation (no. 28). Only then, after study by scholars, by "wise people" who live the culture, and by pastors of the area, can any adaptations be made (no. 29–30). In the third section "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite" explains that the governing principle of liturgical inculturation is the maintenance of "the substantial unity of the Roman rite. This is currently expressed in the typical editions of liturgical books published by the authority of the supreme pontiff and in the liturgical books approved by the Episcopal conferences for their areas and confirmed by the Apostolic See" (no. 36). It posits the authority for adaptations of the Roman rite first "to the Apostolic See, which exercises it through the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments" (no. 37). In the fourth section, after elaborating areas for legitimate adaptation in the liturgy of the sacraments, blessings and liturgical year, "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite" lays down the procedure for the bishops' conferences to ask for the Apostolic See's approval. With regard to the "more profound adaptations" mentioned by Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 40, "Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite" indicates that "adaptations of this kind do not envisage a transformation of the Roman rite" and "are made within the context of the Roman rite" (no. 63).
Contemporary Attempts. Since the promulgation of the typical editions of the Roman liturgical books, there have been several attempts at inculturating the Roman liturgy. India was one of the first countries to move on the program of cultural adaptation of the Roman liturgy. The task was daunting: India is an extremely culturally diverse country and Christians are a minority. As soon as 1965, a national liturgical center was set up. First, elements of Indian culture were juxtaposed with the Roman liturgical setting. Then, the liturgical books were not only translated into the vernacular, but new texts were composed. Third, non-Christian scriptures were introduced into the liturgy. On April 15, 1969 they enumerated twelve points of liturgical inculturation, concerning gestures and postures, forms of homage and objects and elements used in worship [see Notitiae, 5 (1969): 365–374]. Later, a new order for the Eucharist, new Eucharistic prayers and Catholic celebrations of Indian festivals were introduced. While only one revised Eucharistic prayer later received local approval, the task of liturgical adaptation continues, more so in the north than in the south. Also, it seems to be more evident on the "unofficial level" of popular devotion than in the official Latin rite liturgy (Chengalikavil 1993). Critical reflection by scholars and authorities continues.
The impetus toward indigenous liturgical expressions of the faith has marked the Catholic Church in Africa, Oceania and Asia. Relatively successful examples have taken place on an official level in the dioceses of the former Zaire, Malawi, Cameroon, Kenya and Ghana. In Polynesia, Melanesia and Oceania the local churches have sought to wed traditional island culture with liturgical celebration. Progress is also being made in the churches of Asia. Among liturgical scholars these local celebrations have raised questions concerning the methods and agency of the process of inculturation. Foreign authorities face thousands of cultures and languages and the fact that the very symbols of western Christian liturgy are foreign to non-western cultures. The people in the local churches, experts in their own culture, grapple with the forms and content of Christian faith. For example, debate has taken place with regard to the use of imported wheat bread and grape wine for the Eucharist in African and Asian cultures where rice, millet or palm wine are indigenous.
United States. The whole project of liturgical adaptation of the Roman liturgy heralded by the council touches not only Africa and Asia, but North and South America and Europe as well. With regard to contemporary western, Euro-American culture, some liturgists have questioned the premise of adapting the Roman liturgy to what they perceive as a dominant culture that cannot authentically incarnate the Christian gospel. Less pessimistic critics speak of the need to attenuate the counter-cultural notion of liturgy and stress the imperative of mutual interaction and critique so that the liturgy can most authentically express the given community's faith. In many ways, the liturgy is a cultural event because the liturgy is western European, so that the issues faced in Africa and Asia of foreign symbols, gestures and language are not so pronounced.
But many cultures make the face of the American church quite complex. Liturgical books have been translated into some of the Native American languages and Asian-American assemblies have begun to explore the question of the relationship between their cultures and liturgy. The question of inculturation is also alive for African-American and Hispanic assemblies and their desire to develop adequate forms for liturgical worship. Yet, even the terms "African-American," "Hispanic" or "Asian-American" cannot be used monolithically as if uniform African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American cultures existed. Hispanic liturgy is making great strides with regard to weaving the religious experience of Hispanic communities, popular religiosity and the liturgy. Hispanic liturgists have realized that it is through study of the particular values and practices of Hispanic pieties and popular devotions that the liturgy can be incarnated in the various assemblies. Hispanic composers have fashioned diverse liturgical music, and official liturgical texts have been translated into Spanish. The efforts of the Mexican American Cultural Center, the Hispanic sub-committee of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and the Instituto de Liturgia Hispana have greatly aided the assimilation of Hispanic culture and liturgy. Much work has also been done with regard to African-American communities. Through the publication of In Spirit and Truth (1987) and Plenty Good Room (1990), liturgical acculturation has taken root in most predominately African-American assemblies. These documents explore the ways that elements of the African-American religious experience and spirituality can be assimilated into the Roman Liturgy. The publication of Lead Me, Guide Me (Chicago 1987) offers a corpus of music for African-American Catholic assemblies.
The acculturation of Asian, Hispanic and African-American liturgy affords the Church in the United States a means of transforming its received notions of spirituality and worship. The work in these communities enables the rest of the Church to be aware of its own cultural patterns and see the Christian faith embodied in a plurality of ways. The mutual transformation enriches the Church's catholicity.
Conclusion. Consideration of historical and contemporary attempts at the program of liturgical adaptation demonstrate the importance of taking the concrete local culture and situation of the churches seriously. The process of liturgical inculturation presupposes a proclamation of the Gospel within the culture itself in order that the ritual celebration might be an authentic celebration of the people's paschal faith. Liturgical inculturation is a complex issue that raises serious theological, ecclesiological, hermeneutical and liturgical questions. Yet, it remains a pivotal issue as the Church enters the next millennium.
Bibliography: The literature on liturgical inculturation is extensive. The reader is directed to: s. a. stauffer, "Bibliography on Worship and Culture," in Christian Worship: Unity and Cultural Diversity, LWF Studies 1 (Geneva, 1996) 113–142. In particular the work of Anscar Chupungco figures prominently. A bibliography of his work can be found in Liturgy for the New Millennium: A Commentary on the Revised Sacramentary. Essays in Honor of Anscar Chupungco, ed., m. francis and k. pecklers (Collegeville, Minn., 2000), 165–168. Also see: s. bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Maryknoll 1992). m. francis, Shape a Circle Ever Wider: Liturgical Inculturation in the United States (Chicago, Ill.,2000). d. power, "Liturgy and Culture Revisited," Worship, 69 (1995): 225–243. a. shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation (Maryknoll 1988). r. schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies (Maryknoll 1985); The New Catholicity: Theology Between the Global and the Local (Maryknoll 1997). a. perez, "The History of Hispanic Liturgy since 1965" in Hispanic Catholic Culture in the U.S.: Issues and Concerns, ed. j. p. dolan and a. f. deck (Notre Dame 1994) 360–408. Articles cited here include: l. chengalikavil, "Indigenous Liturgy: An Indian Perspective," in L'Adattamento culturale della liturgia: metodi e modelli, ed. i. scicolone, Analecta Liturgica, 19 (Rome 1993) 205–221. congregation for divine worship and discipline of the sacraments, "De Liturgia romana et inculturatione. Instructio quarta ad exsecutionem Constitutionis Concilii Vaticani Secundi de Sacra Liturgia recte ordinandam (ad Const. art 37–40)," Notitiae, 30 (1994) 80–115. English trans. Inculturation of the Liturgy within the Roman Rite (Vatican City 1994). g. de napoli, "Inculturation as Communication," Inculturation, 9 (1987) 71–98. m. d. luttio, "The Chinese Rites Controversy (1603–1742): A Diachronic and Synchronic Approach," Worship, 68 (1994) 290–312. k. rahner, "Toward a Fundamental Theological Interpretation of Vatican II," Theological Studies, 40 (1979) 44–56. a. roest-crollius, "What's So New About Inculturation? A Concept and its Implications," Gregorianum, 59 (1978) 721–738. Lead Me, Guide Me: The African American Hymnal (Chicago 1987). In Spirit and Truth: Black Catholic Reflections on the Order of Mass, The Secretariat of the Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Washington DC 1987). Plenty Good Room: The Spirit and Truth of African American Worship, statement of the Black Liturgy Subcommittee of the Committee on the Liturgy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Washington, D.C. 1990).
[r. e. mccarron]
"Inculturation, Liturgical." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/inculturation-liturgical
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