Inculturation of the Liturgical Year in Aotearoa New Zealand

At a recent meeting of the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Academy of Liturgy in Melbourne, ACU PhD candidate Michael Wallace from Dunedin, New Zealand, offered a presentation drawing on elements of his enlightening thesis on Inculturation of the Liturgical Year in the New Zealand context. In his address Michael focused on the opportunities for inculturation provided by the Festival of Matariki.

“Matariki” is the Maori name for the constellation of stars known as “Pleiades” or “the Seven Sisters” and translated as “the eyes of the lord”. The Matariki festival celebrates the disappearance and reappearance of the constellation in June or July each year. For the Maori and Polynesian peoples, Matariki is a time of celebration when crops are harvested and other food collected; it is also a time to pray for the deceased. In recent years the re-emergence of Matariki has begun to provide a point of unity for all New Zealanders and presents a valuable prospect for liturgical inculturation.

One of the challenges for inculturating Matariki which Michael explored, is the need for the Churches of New Zealand to discern which of the many threads of this festival (mid-winter, family, the departed, creation to name but a few) can become a focus for Christian celebrations of Matariki. Among the options explored, were linking the feasts of the Nativity of John the Baptist or Corpus Christi with Matariki, and the potential relocation of All Souls day to incorporate some of the richness of Matariki. The Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand are just at the beginning of an inculturation journey as they discern a path forward for a clearly-focused Christian festival of Matariki and Michael’s research holds great promise to inform and guide this important work.

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