EXAMINE THE LITURGY IN AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION AND COMPARE IT TO THE CHURCH OR CHRISTIAN LITURGY.

INTRODUCTION

Traditional religion, especially in Africa, like all other religions of the world, have stories, myths, magic, beliefs, liturgy, many performatives, lessons to learn, objects of worship, rewards for actions, be such actions good or bad and many other distinguishing properties. All of the African life is religious. From birth to death and within the circle of the living ancestors, the living now and the living future, the unborn generation, life is continuous for the traditional religionist, especially the African. It is within this context that African Traditional religion is always studied.

THE CONCEPT OF LITURGY

From Middle French liturgie, from Latin liturgia, from Ancient Greek λειτουργία ‎(leitourgía), from λειτ- ‎(leit-), from λαός ‎(laós, “people”) + -ουργός ‎(-ourgós), from ἔργον ‎(érgon, “work”) (the public work of the people done on behalf of the people) is the customary public worship performed by a specific religious group, according to its particular beliefs, customs and traditions. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy is a communal response to the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication, or repentance. Ritualization may be associated with life events such as birth, coming of age, marriage and death. It thus forms the basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy. Methods of dress, preparation of food, application of cosmetics or other hygienic practices are all considered liturgical activities.

In African Traditional Religion, liturgy can be regarded as a customary public worship performed by a specific Chief priest or High priest, according to the African beliefs, customs and traditions as dictated by the gods or deity of that particular African traditional territory. It is a means of communication with God within the context of worship. In African traditional religion liturgy is made up of elements like: libation, invocation, offering, prayers and songs.[1]

In Jewish liturgies are the prayer recitations that form part of the observance of Rabbinic Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book. In general, Jewish men are obligated to pray three times a day within specific time ranges (zmanim). while, according to the Talmud, women are only required to pray once daily, as they are generally exempted from obligations that are time dependent.

From Buddhist perspective, liturgy can be refers to as a formalised service performed by the four-fold sangha and by nearly every denomination and sect in the Buddhist world. It is often done once or more times a day and can vary amongst the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana sects. The liturgy mainly consists of reciting a sutra or passages from a sutra, a mantra (especially in Vajrayana), and several gathas. Depending on what practice the practitioner wishes to undertake, it can be done at a temple or at home. The liturgy is almost always performed in front of an object or objects of veneration and accompanied by offerings of light, incense, and food.[2]

Christian liturgy is a pattern for worship used (whether recommended or prescribed) by a Christian congregation or denomination on a regular basis. Although the term liturgy is used to mean public worship in general, the Byzantine Rite uses the term “Divine Liturgy” to denote the Eucharistic service.[3] While some Protestant churches see no need for set liturgies, many of these churches have retained them. The United Methodist liturgical tradition is based on the Anglican heritage and was passed along to Methodists by John Wesley (an Anglican priest who led the early Methodist revival) who wrote that, there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England.[4]

ELEMENTS OF LITURGY:

  1. Libation: A libation is a ritual pouring of a liquid as an offering to a god or spirit or in memory of those who have died. In African cultures, African traditional religions the ritual of pouring libation is an essential ceremonial tradition and a way of giving homage to the ancestors. Ancestors are not only respected in such cultures, but also invited to participate in all public functions (as are also the gods and God). A prayer is offered in the form of libations, calling the ancestors to attend. The ritual is generally performed by an elder. Although water may be used, the drink is typically some traditional wine (e.g. palm wine) is usually used in Nigeria, and the libation ritual is accompanied by an invitation (and invocation) to the ancestors, gods and God. Also during installment of Kings like Ooni of Ife, Queens, Chiefs, social activities like marriage, naming, laying of the foundation of a new house and the opening of a new house libation is poured.

In Christianity, Libations were part of ancient Judaism and are mentioned in the Bible: And Jacob set up a Pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a Pillar of Stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. — Genesis 35:14. Prophet Isaiah uses libation as a metaphor when describing the end of the Suffering Servant figure who “poured out his life unto death”. (53:12).

  1. Invocation: It means calling upon a greater power such as God or divinities or spirits for help or just to seek their presence. In African traditional religion, the worshippers call upon God or divinities. This is sometimes accompanied by the sounding of a gong or a rattle to create a moment of silence whereby divine or supernatural presence could be felt. The sounding of the gong is also followed by the calling of the names, appellations and praise names of God or the divinity.

In Christianity, An invocation is usually a prayer that, in some liturgies, takes place towards the beginning of Lord’s Day worship, other worship settings, or public gatherings. It is a formal calling upon the name of God, to ask for his presence in worship and for him to hear petitions lifted up in prayer. An entire prayer can be designated as an ‘invocation’ or prayers may contain invocations. Invocations are found throughout Scripture, a well known invocation is the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer which says, ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” (Mt. 6:9)[5]

  1. Offering: Offerings are usually directed to God, the spirits and the ancestors. As the items are offered, the officiating priest invokes the recipients of the offering to come and accept the offering. The acceptability of offering is later determined by the pries through the casting of the lobes of the kola nut on the ground. If the offering has been accepted, part of the kola nut is laid on the shrine and the rest is shared between the priest and the worshippers that are present.

In Christianity, the Hebrew expression “to present an offering” is a combination of the verb “to present, bring near, offer”. The Hebrew word normally translated “sacrifice” (zebah) does not occur in Leviticus 1-3 until 3:1 in the introduction to the “peace offering” section (see also vv. 3, 6, 9). The term for “offering” continues to be used there (vv. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14). Thus, one can say that the peace offering was a particular kind of “offering” that was also a “sacrifice” it involved an animal that was killed and then eaten as part of a communal meal. the word “offering” will be used as a comprehensive term including both grain and animal offerings. “Sacrifice” will refer only to animal offerings.[6]

  1. Prayers: In African traditional religion, prayer is the most common act of worship through which the worshippers can be able to communicate either directly or indirectly with God, the divinities and the ancestors. It can be done anywhere and at anytime and it must be noted that it is only the priest that can do community prayer because it will involve using the various liturgical names and attributes of God or the divinities during such prayers.

Christian prayers are quite varied. They can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The most common prayer among Christians is the Lord’s Prayer, which according to the gospel accounts (e.g. Matthew 6:9–13) is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The Lord’s prayer is a model for prayers of adoration, confession and petition in Christianity.[7]

Christians generally pray to God or to the Father. Some Christians (e.g., Catholics, Orthodox) will also ask the righteous in heaven and “in Christ,” such as Virgin Mary or other saints to intercede by praying on their behalf (intercession of saints). Formulaic closures include “through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, through all the ages of ages,” and “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is customary among Protestants to end prayers with “In Jesus’ name, Amen” or “In the name of Christ, Amen.”[8] However, the most commonly used closure in Christianity is simply “Amen” (from a Hebrew adverb used as a statement of affirmation or agreement, usually translated as so be it).

  1. Songs: Music and religion in Africa act as a singular enterprise. Between the two, there is no separation of sacred, secular, music, vocals, or instruments. Often, religious music incorporates call and response patterns as well as improvisation. Music and dance provide a means by which trance and possession can be attained within religious ritual.[9] Drums play a central role in the both the song and dance. Music reflects the beliefs of the community, sends prayers to particular gods of worship and calls on spirits to influence personal actions. Religion establishes a code of African ethics to define the community and its actions.[10]

Among the most prevalent uses of Christian music are in church worship or other gatherings. Most Christian music involves singing, whether by the whole congregation (assembly), or by a specialized subgroup—such as a soloist, duet, trio, quartet, madrigal, choir, or worship band—, or both. It is frequently accompanied by instruments, but some denominations (such as some Exclusive Brethren, the Churches of Christ, the Primitive Baptists and the Free Church of Scotland) or congregations still prefer unaccompanied or a cappella singing. One of the earliest forms of worship music in the church was the Gregorian chant. Pope Gregory I, while not the inventor of chant, was acknowledged as the first person to order such music in the church, hinting the name “Gregorian” chant. The chant reform took place around 590–604 CE (reign of Pope Gregory I)[11] The Gregorian chant was known for its very monophonic sound. Believing that complexity had a tendency to create cacophony, which ruined the music, Gregory I kept things very simple with the chant.[12]

 

LITURGICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION AND CHRISTIANITY

The main differences to be stated here are found in their liturgical contents:[13]

AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION CHRISTIANITY
The concept of Olodumare “God”. Most practitioners of African Traditional Religion have an understanding of a creator God, Who is distant from man and man has often made covenants with Him. In Christianity, the concept of God normally refined and broaden when one becomes a Christian. God has been close to the human race throughout history and today reaches down in love to draw humans towards Him and that God is the covenant maker and He gives the power to keep the covenant
Many forms of African Traditional Religion teach that the spirits of the dead can be born back into the realm of the living. The Biblical teaching is that human have one life on earth, a single judgment, and then everlasting rest or punishment of the soul.
There are many forms of spirits in African Traditional Religion, some can possess the living. In African Traditional Religion when a spirit possesses a person it will have either positive or negative consequences. In African Traditional Religion one can be possessed in order to gain some privileged knowledge. Christianity promises that the Holy Spirit of God comes into the lives of all believers. In Christianity possession of the Holy Spirit of God is both the sign of being “sons of God” and the source of power and comfort. But demons and other satanic agents can also possess people.
African Traditional Religions are specific to each ethnic group on the continent. No ethnic group is motivated to teach another ethnic group its forms of religion and convert them. The evangelistic mandate of Christianity, and the very nature of Jehovah God, encompasses all ethnic groups on the planet for all time. The Christian message calls people out of earthly kingdoms into the Kingdom of God.
In African Traditional Religion ancestral spirits, and divinities, are usually the spirits that communicate with humans on earth. These spirit do not carry the desires of humans to the Creator God. Christ Jesus, God’s own son, takes the “groaning” of humans to God. Christ was tempted in all the ways men were tempted, so He is a sympathetic mediator.
Sin in African Traditional Religion is mostly concerned with transgression of morals or community norms. In African Traditional Religion there is a difference in the severity or degree of a sins.  If one does harm to someone in your his own ethnic group, it a more serious sin than if one commits it against someone of another group. In the Christian sin is against and in rebellion to God. In Christianity all sins are equal.
Sacrifices are offered in African Traditional Religion in order placate, appease, or ask favors of the spirits. They are often offered when a wrong is committed. The will of God, as revealed in the Bible, is that all people be forgiven and saved through the sacrifice of His son.

 

Similarities:

  1. In Christianity, they believe that God is the alpha and omega, and in traditional African religion, they also believe the same.
  2. In Christianity, prayers are offered to God through a medium, Jesus Christ and in traditional African religion, prayers are offered to God through a medium, ifa or sango or amadioha
  3. In the bible, Christ broke bread and asked us to do it in remembrance of Him. He also said the bread represents His flesh while the wine represents His blood. In traditional African religion, they eat flesh and drink animal blood during sacrifices.
  4. In Christianity Christ came and became a sacrificial lamb in order to appease God on behalf of mankind and in traditional African religion, they also offer animals and sometimes humans in order to appease God for their sins.

Conclusively, there are various similarities and differences in the liturgical practices of both Christianity and African Traditional Religion. But, the two religions recognized that the liturgical practices can be led by the family head at the level of the family and the priest at the level of the community. It includes libation, invocation, offering, prayers (those priestly prayers which are made on behalf of the people are now taken aloud, allowing the people’s “Amen” or “Ase” to be made with full recognition of what went before) and song.

 

REFERENCE

  1. Worship and Sacrifice in African Traditional Religion, http://www.researchfaculty.com/2015/05/worship-and-sacrifice-in-african.html retrieved on 7th of May, 2016
  2. Liturgy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liturgy retrieved on 7th of May, 2016
  3. Mother Mary and Ware, Kallistos Timothy,Festal Menaion (3rd printing, 1998), St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, p. 555
  4. Invocation, http://www.theopedia.com/invocation retrieved on 7th of May, 2016
  5. Offerings and Sacrifices, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/offerings-and-sacrifices.html retrieved on 7th of May, 2016
  6. Anne Geldart, 1999, Examining Religions: Christianity Foundation, Jordan Hill: Heinemann Educational Publishers p. 108
  7. Sona Jobarteh, 2008, Music and Dance in African Religions, http://www.africanholocaust.net/html_ah/musicanddanceinreligion.htm retrieved on 7th of May, 2016
  8. Religious Music: The African Roots, http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/1998/music/religion/religion.htm retrieved on 7th of May, 2016
  9. Kamien, Roger. Music: An Appreciation. 9th ed. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008., pp. 65-67
  10. Boyer, Horace Clarence,How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel Elliott and Clark, 1995,
  11. African Religions and Beliefs: Differences between African Traditional Religion and Christianity, http://religioninafrica.com/difference-between-african-traditional-religion-and-christianity/ retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

 

[1] Worship and Sacrifice in African Traditional Religion, http://www.researchfaculty.com/2015/05/worship-and-sacrifice-in-african.html retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

[2] Liturgy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liturgy retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

[3] Mother Mary and Ware, Kallistos Timothy, Festal Menaion (3rd printing, 1998), St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, p. 555

[4] Works of John Wesley, vol. XVI, page 304

[5] Invocation, http://www.theopedia.com/invocation retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

[6] Offerings and Sacrifices, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/offerings-and-sacrifices.html retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

[7] Anne Geldart, 1999, Examining Religions: Christianity Foundation, Jordan Hill: Heinemann Educational Publishers p. 108

[8] See John 16:23, 26; John 14:13; John 15:16

[9] Sona Jobarteh, 2008, Music and Dance in African Religions, http://www.africanholocaust.net/html_ah/musicanddanceinreligion.htm retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

[10] Religious Music: The African Roots, http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/1998/music/religion/religion.htm retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

[11] Kamien, Roger. Music: An Appreciation. 9th ed. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008., pp. 65-67

[12] Boyer, Horace Clarence, How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel Elliott and Clark, 1995,

[13] African Religions and Beliefs: Differences between African Traditional Religion and Christianity, http://religioninafrica.com/difference-between-african-traditional-religion-and-christianity/ retrieved on 7th of May, 2016

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