Bishop Charles-Remi RAKOTONIRINA 
(Bishop of Frafangana, Madagascar)

Faith transmitted by our ancestors is very close to the Old Testament. Pre-Christians of my kindred do not adore idols at all. They deeply believe in God and call him "creator" (Zanahry). They are convinced that the creator revealed himself to our ancestors "many times and in different ways, in the past (Heb. 1,1). This revelation "vetero-testamentaria" is expressed in many religious myths and trusted to oral and living tradition in worship. The pre-Christians honour the creator by sacrifices as a sign of respect (known as srona or sotra) and by rites for re-establishing relations (called ffy). Meanwhile there is a continuity which is so called natural between the "depositum fidei" entrusted to the ancestors and the Christian faith. There are two examples.

For us the sacred animal per excellence is the bull. This is offered to the creator both in sacrifices of respect and in rites of reconciliation. Whenever for instance it concerns re-establishing in the vital flow a son who has seriously offended his father, then one resorts to the bull. The bull which replaces the guilty son is called "a substitute of guilt" (slo hloka) or "a substitute of the offence" (slo vina). This dual notion coincides a hundred per cent with what the Christian faith tells us about the Lamb without spot: although he did not know sin, for our sake he made him be sin (2 Cor. 5,21); He gave his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mt. 20,28).

For us it is easy to understand the Eucharistic Communion. According to ancestral faith the meat of the sacrificed bull is partly eaten together and partly sent to the people who are absent and this called "the piece of meat that does the relation" (nfon-kna-mitm-pihavnana). And what could be better than finding in order to understand dynamism of our communion in the "sacramental body" that transforms into the "ecclesial body", in view of a closer and closer relationship with God the Father, our ancestor and among ourselves.

If liturgical inculturation just had to adopt dances and drums, it would be a superficial and fragile inculturation. To inculturate means discovering the meeting point of prayer (lex orandi) and of Christian faith (lex credendi) with the prayer and faith of Traditional Religions of Africa and Madagascar. Let us hope that this Synod helps our Churches to "walk together" towards authentic inculturation.

Original text: French 


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