Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Garífuna Mass

Last Sunday Macho Man, Don Miguel and my Sister-in-law decided to go to the 6:30 PM Mass at the cathedral.  When we got there we found out it was to be a Garífuna Mass.  These Masses are held on the second Sunday of every month.

The Garífuna are the descendants of slaves brought from St. Vincent to Central America in 1797 and the local indians.  They were off-loaded on Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras, or were either thrown overboard or were the victims of the shipwreck of two slave ships, actions taken by the British to prevent an uprising against English settlers on St. Vincent.  They have retained their Arawak language and much of their African culture.  The Spanish forced their conversion to Catholicism but couldn't change their form of worship.

The Mass started with Garífuna music, sung in their own language and accompanied by maracas, tambourines, and wooden drums topped with animal skins, tuned by tightening or loosening straps wrapped around the drums.  There was a lot of clapping, dancing in place, and joyful noise.  You could not help getting caught up in the joy and celebration.  Even the scriptures were read in Garífuna.  I was surprised to find that while I couldn't understand the words to the Lord's Prayer, I knew what was being said and could pray it in English.

Father Felipe conducted his homily and the celebration of the Eucharist in Spanish, which I could understand a little better.  When the bread and the wine were brought to the alter it was done with dancing, waving of palm fronds, singing, and the offering of bowls and cups made of coconut hulls, bread made from cassava flour.  It was truly a celebration!

We were made to feel we were part of the congregation.  When the sign of Christ's Peace was given, many many people came to us and wished us La Paz de JesuCristo.  When the Mass was ended, many people came to us and expressed their thanks for joining them and asked us to join them for worship in August.

I left worship feeling a spirit of joy and jubilation that is hard to describe.  I felt I had neen taught a lesson in the extent of the love of God.  My knowledge base was broadened.  I came away feeling more convinced than ever that there are many ways to worship and God loves them all.

We are blessed.

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