Sri Lanka Catholic Church For Shunning Native Rituals
Published: 25th December 2015 04:14 AM
COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has issued instructions to the faithful to observe Christmas strictly according to the Sacred Liturgy and avoid rituals adopted from indigenous Sinhalese and Tamil cultures.
An “Important Notice” published in the Church’s official newspaper Koinonia dated December 20, says that His Eminence has recommended that Christmas concerts should not be permitted inside churches, and Christmas trees should not be placed inside the church. Worshippers are also asked to avoid the practice of boiling milk inside churches during the midnight service on December 31, and refrain from boiling milk and exchanging money on New Year’s Day.
The ban against observing local cultural practices is based on the theory that these are “connected with the Sinhala and Tamil Lunar New Year celebrations based on astrology”.
According to the notice: “These do not comply with the sacred significance of Christmas but are connected to social and family celebrations of Christmas and New Year.”
Of the diktats, the one that caught immediate media attention is the ban on placing Christmas trees in churches. It seems to throw cold water on the festive spirit traditionally associated with Christmas.
Writing in www.colombotelegraph.com, Chirantha Amerasinghe points out that Pope John Paul II had said in 2003 that the crib and the tree are “precious symbols, which hand down in time, the true meaning of Christmas.” In 2004, the Pope added that the tree “calls to life the Tree of Life (cf.Gn.2:9), a figure of Christ, God’s Supreme gift to humanity.”
The Church is the House of God where the Parish (which is but a family) gathers to celebrate, Amerasinghe said.
He points out that like many other rituals and symbols in Christianity, the Christmas tree also has its origin in pagan customs.
It was adopted by St. Boniface in 723 AD from the German pagan practice of worshipping a tree God known as “Thunder Oak”. St. Boniface only replaced the oak by the evergreen fir tree.
Going further on the diktats, which smack of cultural insularity and intolerance, Amerasinghe warned: “We must be careful with our image among the non-Christians.”