Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Lakota on Liturgy

I have been interested in the question of Native American liturgy for some time. So I have felt rather sad that there is a lot of exploitative Amerindian tourist kitsch for sale around here, where my family is on vacation, in all the gift-shops that essentializes and exoticizes their culture. Sometimes, however, there is something actually interesting.

I found this in a 1991 book called The Pipe and Christ: A Christian-Sioux Dialogue that I've seen for sale in a couple of the bookstores around here. In most cases it has been wrapped in plastic so I could not page through it. However, I found it unwrapped in one museum and, lo and behold, I immediately opened to a very relevant passage. So I took a picture of the page with a digital camera yesterday so I could transcribe the passage here. It's amazing what places references to traditionalism will be found:

Even though the reforms of Vatican II have been in effect over 15 years now, I still hear complaints about the new liturgy not only from the old but also from those in their mid-20's. Turning the altar to face the people and changing the language from Latin to English or Lakota has changed what was once felt to be very awesome, mysterious, and sacred into something that now feels very profane, ordinary, and inconsequential. Previously the emphasis was upon worshipping the transcendent God; today the emphasis is on relating religiously with ones neighbor. Previously the emphasis was upon silent presence; now the emphasis is upon verbal exchange. The active role of the priest and servers and the passive role of the congregation are now replaced with few or no servers and an increasing role by every person who comes. While priests grumble about a lack of whole-hearted participation by those attending and a lack of real sense of spiritual oneness found in the congregation, some older medicine men grumble that[...]this ceremony is a spiritual ceremony, and its success, in part, depends upon the faith and concentration of the congregation in that same direction.

-The Pipe and Christ: A Christian-Sioux Dialogue by William Stolzman. Tipi Press, 1991. Page 133.

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