Rome (Fides Service) - "The seed which is the Word of God sprouts from the good ground watered by divine dew. From this good ground the seed draws nourishing elements which it transforms and assimilates into itself. Finally it bears much fruit". Such is the description of the encounter between the Word of God and cultures in the Second Vatican Council's decree on the missionary activity of the Church Ad Gentes. (22). It is an inculturation that touches people at personal, cultural, economic and political levels so that they can live a holy life in total union with God the Father, through the action of the Holy Spirit. Inculturation is the ever renewed incarnation of the mystery of Christ, which in turn is the supreme model and perfect realisation of authentic inculturation.
The incarnation of the Word of God is the meeting point of the revelation of the Son of God and of salvation history. It is the perfect model of inculturation because Christian truth does not remain a mere transcendent revelation - rather, as leaven in the flour, it becomes deeply embedded in the tissue of human history, and is received in the heart of every man, transforming history. These two components of the mystery of Christ transcendence and immanence are also the two fundamental laws of inculturation.
Any attempt at inculturation by the Church, means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration into Christianity, and at the same time the insertion of Christianity into the various human cultures. The motivation, the model, the criterion, the content and the purpose must be the Word of God become Man, who is himself the subject and object of this Word. The good news is Jesus Christ. He is both the starting point and the destination.
In imitating the incarnation of the Word of God, inculturation, therefore, is and ought to be historical and transcendent, total and integral. Just as 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us' (Jn. 1:14), so too the good news, the word of Jesus Christ proclaimed to the nations, must take root in the life situation of the hearers of the Word. Inculturation is precisely this insertion of the Gospel message into cultures. For the incarnation of the Son of God, precisely because it was complete and concrete, was also an incarnation in a particular culture. In the mystery of incarnation, Christ assumed human nature and used human language and the cultural and religious milieu to reveal the transcendent God's saving and loving plan for humanity, and indeed raise it to a sublime dignity. In the same way inculturating Christ and evangelising cultures does not reduce either the image of Christ or the fullness of cultures, but rather heals, ennobles and perfects cultures and raises them to be the paths and instruments of the Word of God.
In the incarnation, the first and foremost inculturation of faith, Jesus Christ united himself in a certain way with every man, for the Word of God touches the most profound and sensible part of the human heart. It is a model for an interpersonal dialogue. Every individual will feel the presence of Christ beside and inside him. Every individual experiences the richness of the humanity of Christ expanded in the concrete reality of his own life and of his own culture. From an intimate life with Christ, he becomes a witness of Christ's presence, sharing and solidarity to his own culture. It is the dynamics of both individual and community conversion.
Furthermore, every inculturated evangelisation must reflect faithfully the attitude of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the poor (cf. Mt 25:31-46) and said of himself: "The Spirit of the Lord ... has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18), and during his earthly life devoted himself with special compassion to all those in spiritual and material need. As a vital element of evangelisation, inculturation in its programming, priorities, words and actions, must manifest its preferential option for the poor, its communion and solidarity with them. For as Pope Paul VI recalled, "on the face of every human being, especially when marked by tears and sufferings, we can and must see the face of Christ (cf. Mt 25:40), the Son of Man". (Cardinal Paul Poupard) (Fides Service 25/11/2004 EM lines 51 Words: 763)