A Christian priest of the Orthodox tradition was looking for a place to celebrate Eucharist for his small groups of faithfuls. The only condition he insisted was a place to face the east. Your editor had the misfortune of seeing a cardinal who disliked to face the faithful while celebrating the Eucharist really turned to the west! Some of us are fixated on certain attitudes to which we care not to apply reason. The orthodox priest I mentioned above thinks if he does not turn to the east he is not only in error but also in heresy, for he does not know that facing the east is a non-Christian tradition borrowed by the church. Similar is the document on Yoga by the doctrinal commission of the Syro-Malabar Church on Yoga. It is so negative and prejudiced. The document categorically states that Yoga in not sync with the Catholic faith. It considers yoga as a vehicle used to smuggle the ideology of another religion into Catholicism. Pope Francis reminded his listeners: “You can take a million catechetical courses, a million courses in spirituality, a million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things. But all of this will never be able to give you, freedom.” Is it a condemnation of Yoga? If it is, he condemns catechism courses too. When Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman empire, he changed the Sun-God to the Son of God. The church turned to the east, but not to the worship of the sun. Instead, she turned to the worship of the Son.
By definition, inculturation is “the creative and dynamic relationship between the Christian message and a culture or cultures.” The precise nature of this relationship, however, is more difficult to describe. Several writers posit an analogy between inculturation and the Incarnation of Christ. Just as the Logos “took flesh” and entered into the culture of first century Palestine, so must the Christian faith take on the culture of each group that receives the Gospel. It should be preached in terms familiar to the people, lest they perceive Christianity as something foreign and irrelevant to their way of life. It goes without saying that this idea can have serious implications for the official life and worship of the Church. Pope Paul VI declared that vernacular languages had become vox ecclesi, the “voice of the Church.” The vernacular language or the culture is the house of our being.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states in a letter dated 15, 1989 addressed to the bishops of the Catholic Church: “In prayer it is the whole man who must enter into relation with God, and so his body should also take up the position most suited to recollection. Such a position can in a symbolic way express the prayer itself, depending on cultures and personal sensibilities. In some aspects, Christians are today becoming more conscious of how one’s bodily posture can aid prayer.” The same document also states: “The great Doctor of the Church recommends concentrating on oneself, but also transcending the self which is not God, but only a creature. God is ‘deeper than my inmost being and higher than my greatest height.’In fact God is in us and with us, but he transcends us in his mystery.” The great doctor quoted in it is St Augustine. He wrote: “Do not go abroad, return unto yourself, truth dwells in yourself.” This is the path of interiority. Anyone who prefers this path to the interior castle will realise the help Yoga can provide in spiritual life as well. At the same time, we must accept “Genuine Christian mysticism has nothing to do with technique: it is always a gift of God, and the one who benefits from it knows himself to be unworthy.” At the same time “human experience shows that the position and demeanour of the body also have their influence on the recollection and dispositions of the spirit”… “One must have a spirituality of harmony of body and soul. In prayer it is the whole man who must enter into relation with God, and so his body should also take up the position most suited to recollection.Such a position can in a symbolic way express the prayer itself, depending on cultures and personal sensibilities. In some aspects, Christians are today becoming more conscious of how one’s bodily posture can aid prayer.” As someone who has practiced yoga for years, your editor believes that it actually makes one a better Catholic. Yoga is not a threat to my faith. The fundamental idea of it is that ‘God’ is deep within ourselves. We are gods, and we discover the unlimited power within us by peeling off layers of inauthenticity and egoism. Yoga is more than just an ancient Hindu discipline.