Print Version    Email to Friend
Dreaming of a liturgy where people feel the living God in their midst


MIRI (SE): The Sixteenth Asia Liturgy Forum began in Miri, Sarawak, in East Malaysia, on October 16 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, as the purpose of the forum is to incorporate its spirit into the liturgies of the Asian Church.

The forum discussed the impact that the Constitution of the Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council has had in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and The Philippines, the countries or territories that were represented at the forum.

The general impression given by the delegates is that both the clergy and people have welcomed the spirit of the constitution and Bishop Julius Tonel, from The Philippines, said that the manner in which people participate actively in the liturgy reflects their joy in welcoming it.

He added, “They also love learning about the word of God.”

He explained that all the liturgical books in his country have at least been translated into Tagalog, the language of Metro Manila and most widely used Philippine language, but the country has several major languages that are spoken by the various ethnic groupings.

Bishop Tonel pointed out he is still only dreaming of what could be possible, saying, “I dream of a Mass where the people feel at home, understand everything that is said to them and happily give their consent to it. I dream of a Mass where a community of brothers and sisters, together with their pastor, gather together, and together experience the living Lord in their midst.”

A member of the Philippine delegation added that people have really taken to the lay liturgical ministries that grew out of Vatican II with great enthusiasm and that, in his diocese, there are around 6,000 who have done preparation courses and been recognised officially to carry out several of these ministries.

However, the Philippine delegation reflected that inculturation is always the sticking point and noted that since English is also widely used as a common language in the linguistically diverse nation of islands, it too has an impact on the spirit of the liturgy.

The delegation noted that although people will accept the new translation of the Mass, it is has made it even more foreign and that people still long for a real Philippine Mass that profoundly resonates with Philippine culture.

The delegation also noted that because of the particular history of The Philippines, religiosity plays a large part in the expression of faith and because people feel right at home in its popular expressions, the delegation believes that it has a lot to give to the liturgy in terms of what is truly Filipino.

The delegation left the forum with the question of what can be learned from popular religiosity that can give the liturgy a deeper Filipino resonance.

Along the same lines, the great difficulty that the Church in Thailand has had in translating both the bible and liturgical books was pointed out.

The Indonesian delegation spoke of the benefit that lay ministries have brought to the country, as many liturgies do not include the Eucharist and are entirely lay run and organised.

Bishop Aloysius Sustrisnattmaka spoke of the importance of the liturgy of the word in his country, as it is truly the lynchpin in the people’s practice of the faith.

A delegate from Indonesia added that there are over 100 different musical instruments used in liturgical music as well, which gives it a truly local flavour.

Benedictine Father Anscar Chupungco added that liturgical music is not just the addition of songs or hymns, but the liturgy itself can become a song.

The liturgical expert from The Philippines encouraged people to try and make the liturgy itself sing.

The whole conference was given a Malaysian liturgical treat when the delegates were invited to what is known locally as a longhouse, which features accommodation for about 17 families, with each apartment connected to a long corridor, which serves as a meeting place or community centre.

Local Bishop Anthony Lee celebrated a charismatic Mass in the longhouse and people arranged themselves on the floor.

It was pointed out that, but for Vatican II, such a celebration in places where people celebrate their everyday community life and spirit would not have been possible.

The forum agreed that the constitution of Vatican II has given a warmth to the liturgy that it would not otherwise possess.

It pointed out that it allows people from extremely diverse cultural backgrounds to resonate with the liturgy and celebrate it in ways that reflect their own roots and fit their physical and cultural environments.

However, the final statement of the forum notes that despite the advances that have been made there is still a long way to go, while at the same time there is reason to be optimistic about what can be achieved in making the liturgy the source and summit of the celebration of the Christian life.

The forum decided that its gathering next year will be held in Hong Kong.


More from this section