Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire
MISSAL FOR THE DIOCESES OF ZAIRE
Promulgated by the decree Zairensium on April 30, 1988 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Missel romain pour les diocèses du Zaïre (Roman Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire) is an attempt to inculturate the Roman Ordo missae in an African context, inspired by the liturgical reform initiated at the Second Vatican Council (see inculturation, liturgical).
Genesis and Drafting. Amid the cultural ferment in the aftermath of Zaire's independence in the 1960s (see congo, democratic republic of), just before Vatican II, the bishops of Zaire stated that Christianity's appeal was inhibited because of lack of adaptation to the living traditions of the African peoples. In a 1961 directive, the Episcopal Conference of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) called for an "adaptation of the cult." A thorough and critical examination of the religious customs and cultural matrix of the African peoples was identified as the starting point for an elaboration of an authentic African liturgy. The renewal decreed by the Second Vatican Council, together with the historical appeal of Pope Paul VI in Kampala in 1969 to the African nations to formulate Catholicism in terms of African culture [Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1 (1969) 577-578] confirmed the endeavor of the Zairean bishops.
In 1969, the Commission on Evangelization of the Episcopal Conference initiated study of the culture and religious beliefs of the Zairean peoples. After the Congregation for Divine Worship granted authorization on June 22, 1970, the Commission on Evangelization elaborated the first draft of the new Order of Mass that was presented officially to the bishops in 1973. Permission to use the new liturgy ad experimentum was granted on June 15, 1973. After extensive evaluation and criticism, the entire Zairean episcopate reaffirmed the "Zairean Rite," as it was then called, in 1985. Once the bishops had given approval, the Roman authorities granted that the new Order be used ad interim. Definitive approbation of the Zairean Eucharistic liturgy came in 1988 under the title, Missel romain pour les Diocèses du Zaïre (Roman Missal for Use in the Dioceses of Zaire). The name changed from "Zairean Rite" because "rite" is a broader designation and does not consist of the Eucharistic liturgy solely. Second, the Roman authorities wanted to locate this African Eucharistic liturgy within the "forms already existing" in the Catholic Church, namely the typical edition of the Roman Missal (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 23).
Structure and Originality of the Missal. Taken in both its solemn and simple versions, the Missal for Zaire followed the structure of the Roman Ordo missae. However, it was adapted and enriched by a number of variations inspired by the region's cultural milieu. Three major structural adaptations are evident. First, the liturgy begins with an invocation of the ancestors. Second, the penitential rite follows the proclamation of the Word, the homily, and creed. Third, the gesture of peace follows this penitential rite, not the Lord's Prayer as in the typical edition of the Roman Missal.
These changes found their raison d'être in the particular worldview of the Zairean peoples, and the pattern of their traditional community gatherings provided the ritual frame for the Zairean Mass. First, the remembrance of ancestors opens the Eucharistic celebration. The remembrance of ancestors is an essential practice in traditional African society since most Africans believe that the dead are still members of the community and that the world of the dead is in communion with that of the living. Not all the dead are presented with the title of ancestor, but only those who have lived an honest and exemplary life. No important event or gathering can occur in traditional African society without an invocation of ancestors and their remembrance.
Taking account of this practice, the Zairean liturgy integrated the invocation of the saints and the ancestors into the Eucharistic celebration. By doing so, the liturgical rite Christianized the traditional remembrance and veneration of ancestors. Whereas, in the traditional society, the ancestors belonged to only their clan or family, their incorporation in the Christian liturgy was the very expression of their incorporation in Christ. Thus, the ancestors of one clan could be invoked as ancestors of the entire Christian community.
Just as in the traditional gathering, forgiveness is sought after the exposition of the circumstances of disharmony, so the penitential rite followed the proclamation of the scriptures and the Homily. Having listened to the Word of God that stirs up the memory of God's salvific call and grounds all conversion, the community sought God's pardon for its shortcomings and sinfulness and reconciliation with each other.
Distinctive Cultural Aspects of the Liturgy. Fidelity to African culture resulted in the incorporation of the
Zairean peoples' orality, gesture, art, and music into the Roman liturgy. The characteristics of African orality are dialogue, narrative, repetition, dramatization, the use of short sentences, strong images and metaphors, enigmatic expressions calling for a deep sense of imagination, expressive sonorities, and allusions. The model taken was the palabre africaine or judicial oratorical art. For instance, in the Homily, the preacher elicited the response of the assembly, engaging them as a dialogue partner. The preaching was often interrupted by songs and dances. Also, traditional African assemblies included designated individuals who introduce, comment, summarize, and dramatize what is under discussion, the goal to invite the community to a genuine sense of what is taking place. Thus, liturgy included an announcer or narrator, generally a lay minister, who heralded and commented upon the main parts of the celebration and introduced to the assembly whoever was going to speak. Every reader asked the permission and blessing of the priest celebrant. The culmination of the liturgy of the Word was the enthronement of the Book of the Gospels.
Gesture and movement was another characteristic of the Zairean liturgy. Bodily expression also took the form of dance. The Gloria, which immediately followed the invocation of the ancestors, was accompanied by ritual dances by the ministers and some of the faithful around the altar while incense was burned. These two symbolic actions were intended as an expression of the veneration of the altar. The rest of the assembly members danced at their places. The priest celebrant venerated the altar with traditional African gesture: with his arms raised in a "V" form, he touched each side of the altar with his forehead. During the penitential rite, all the assembly members bowed their heads and formed an "X" on their chests with their arms. At the sign of peace, people generally shook their two hands as a sign of total openness or acceptance, sometimes preceded by the washing of the hands in a common receptacle. Rhythmic dances and gestures also accompanied the procession of the gifts, including food and gifts destined for the poor, the sick, and the suffering, or for community fund-raising.
The Zairean Mass made use of special liturgical vestments and specific musical instruments. The Zairean liturgical vestments were distinguished by their form, design, and particular arrangement of colors. Generally, the bottom color held dominant meaning and was decorated with other complementary colors. Among the musical instruments commonly used were the tam-tam, the gong, and the hand bell. The bell, the instrument of the announcer, was used to announce any intervention in the assembly. The gong was usually reserved for use during the institution narrative of the Eucharistic prayer. Frequent use was made of the drum, an instrument of great importance for Africans. The Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire was a concrete example of the ongoing task of the inculturation of Roman Catholic liturgy and African cultural genius.
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