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A Black Church that prays in circle

Enculturating Catholic liturgy

Father David Jones

Catholic Practices

When we take something from the culture and mix it into the liturgy, the act is called enculturation. This is no easy trick!

One has to know and protect the liturgical action, what Christ is doing and know what the cultural action is doing. It is not always possible to enculturate Catholic liturgy. It is never easy to do so.

One popular action that shows a pretty good example of enculturation is joining hands for the Our Father. The Lord’s Prayer belongs to the Lord. Jesus invites us to adopt His prayer so we can speak to the Father just as the Son does.

The black church has a marvelous sense of “unbreaking the circle.” This theological idea understands that as we sin we break away from the bond we have with God the Father. Jesus “unbreaks” the circle and makes us one and makes us whole again. The circle shows our unity in Christ Jesus.

When we pray the Our Father and symbolize the “unbreaking” of the circle by all joining hands, the culture and the church are doing and meaning the same thing.

Now in a strange twist of events, when we attempt to join hands in order to make or “unbreak” the circle, connect all of us, and we don’t manage to make a circle, we have contradicted our selves and the prayer.

When we try to make the circle, if you find yourself on the lose end, you have to move to make the connection. Otherwise the answer to the question, “Will the circle be unbroken?” is “Not by me.” That is not what Jesus is doing, saying or praying.

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