Last week I celebrated the African Mass. We remembered St. Josephine Bakhita, one of the patrons of the community.
The music was very lively, and the dancing was energetic.
African church music celebrates God’s goodness and promise, our faith and hope, our journey. It carries melodies and tonalities, rhythms, and harmonies. It is alive.
It speaks to our hearts, it moves us.
No wonder so many Africans find our liturgical celebrations bland and too ‘heady’.
The psalms encourage us to praise God with our whole being. ‘Rejoice and clap your hands’, ‘shout to God with shouts of joy!’
I remember years ago seeing an African liturgy online. A Bishop was celebrant. He was wearing a mitre and carrying his crozier. As he walked up the church, he was dancing.
Our liturgies need to be alive. They need to be the experience of the whole person. They are about heart as well as head.
I believe that our liturgies need constant review. Readings need to be proclaimed, music needs to be bother prayerful and alive. Homilies need to speak to the heart.
Of course, the Mass is able to be celebrated in so many ways. I celebrated a children’s Mass this morning. It was in a primary school. Tomorrow I will celebrate Mass in a high school. That will be different again.
St. Paul speaks about being all things to all people, so that he can win them for Christ.
Liturgy is for the people, not people for the liturgy. It is profound mystery, a mystery that brings about the reality that it represents.
Our liturgies need to be welcoming places. How we pray communal prayers, how we greet people should be such that newcomers, or old friends coming back to check things out, will all feel respected and made to feel at home.
I often remind congregations to slow down at the Gloria, Creed, Our Father, etc. It both helps us to pray as well as enabling those not familiar with the prayers, to join in.
Let us not tire from doing our bit, to keep celebrating in a life-giving manner.