Christians in Tanzania “celebrate” Christ’s funeral on Good Friday with
rites inspired by the local African culture with a special liturgical service
from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the beginning of the Good Friday Liturgy (or even on
Saturday morning). It is called Remembering the Wake of Jesus Christ. The
priest, parish council chairperson and catechist sit on mats in front of the
church building. According to the local custom when someone dies, the women
bring flour, beans, etc. and the men give money towards the purchase of a burial
cloth. The liturgy itself has two parts. The first part is the reading of four
scripture texts followed by appropriate hymns, songs and prayers (including
praying decades of the rosary). The second and longer part is a meditation on
Christ’s last words (very important in the African context) with appropriate
hymns and prayers. This parallels the last words of a dying father to his
children in the African tradition. Along with the other meaningful liturgies and
rites of Holy Week, this liturgy of mourning Christ speaks deeply to the
Tanzanian people. The mourning period or wake immediately after death is an
important rite of passage that must be properly solemnized and celebrated. Why
not for Christ himself who is called in African languages "Chief of Chiefs,"
"Great and Greatest Ancestor," "Ram of the Mighty Sinews and Majestic Carriage"
and "Supreme Healer?"
The liturgy includes the song I Am Overwhelmed by Grief
(the literal meaning is I Am Crying with Great Sadness). This is a traditional Sukuma song about a mother whose adult son has died. She laments his death and
the fact that she has no one to help her or to take care of her in her old age.
This is an excellent example of inculturation where a meaningful traditional
African song is integrated into the Catholic liturgy. Mary sings an adaptation
of this song, She Is Crying For Her Son, at the foot of the cross in the
biblical Passion Play first produced at Bujora and Misungwi Parishes in Mwanza,