by Mark Rodriguez

“You are the fullness of Reality, One without a second. Being, Knowledge, Bliss. Om, tat, sat.”(Om tat sat, ओम् तत् सत्, is a Sanskrit mantra meaning these are “the three words of the three forms of god.”) In 1974, these words concluded the eucharistic prayer in the first “Order of Mass” published by the National Biblical, Catechetical, and Liturgical Centre in Bengaluru, India. Unfortunately, a 1975 letter from the cardinal prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship “called a stop to [such] unauthorized experimentation,” and specifically cited the cessation of the Thomas Christians’ so-called “Indian Anaphora.”

Apparently, the Roman church in 1975 did not see such experimentation as the good fruit of the faith’s proper inculturation. And so, we see a problem which so many of us liturgists face today as we watch our neighborhoods and ecclesial communities become more and more culturally diverse. Hence, the question naturally arises, “How do we minister to such communities?” Well, the church in its history, both ancient and contemporary, offers three approaches: (1) adaptation, (2) inculturation, and (3) interculturation. I will explain.

Adaptation is the process, as Robert Schreiter puts it, in which “‘the faith [i]s adapted or accommodated to a very limited degree in order to communicate the Gospel message in a given cultural context.” Inculturation on the other hand takes adaptation further by stressing the relationship that occurs once faith and culture meet, but only with interculturation do we clearly see and account for the interaction that takes place as well. So, on one level, you have accommodation, on another, relationship, but with interculturation, you reach interaction.

As a liturgical minister, I always knew I needed to avoid adaptation, as Schreiter puts it, “because of its simplistic and too static understanding of culture.” More often than not, such superficial efforts come across as mere tokenism and once seen as such even greater divisions can ensue. Unfortunately, in ministerial praxis too many ecclesial programs still operate under this model. So, how might we go about changing this? How might we as liturgical ministers begin to foster not only a ministerial attitude of inculturation, but the ultimate attitude of interculturation which can lead to such an awesome level of inter-communal enrichment?

Source: Robert Schreiter, “Faith and Cultures: Challenges to a World Church,” Theological Studies 50 (1989), 746.

Mark Rodriguez is a masters student in Liturgical Studies at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville.

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