On December 9, we lost a great spiritual teacher, lover of ritual and of young people, Malidoma Patrice Somé, an ancestor from Dano, Burkina Faso in Africa.
Some 27 years ago, I visited Sheffield England to check out the Nine O’clock Service (NOS) in which young people were reinventing liturgy using elements of rave such as dj, vj and rap. On returning home I took my experience to Malidoma Somé. We went walking in the redwood forest near Oakland where we both lived.
The moment I told him about NOS, I could sense that his soul went running up a giant redwood tree. I had to wait a while for him to retrieve it. He told me:
For several years living here in the States I have had a message recurring in my meditation. It said that America needs a great awakening. While my work in the men’s movement is useful, it is not of the scale that is needed to wake up the West. But the Sheffield movement is.
First, because it is made up of young people. Only the young can recover spirituality when it has been lost. Second, because it uses technology, and the language of technology must be used for spirituality. Third, because the work is ritual and there is nothing more basic to regenerating a community than ritual.
In a follow-up letter, Malidoma elaborated.
The rest of the world–including those who have checked themselves out of Christianity and those who dare not enter it or are pretending they are [Christian] because it makes them look good in certain quarters–is waiting for NOS to happen in this country…. I see the radicalism in it as one aimed toward healing, reconciling, and restarting people’s identity. It is like a massive homecoming for the rest of the world which the stultified religious conservatism has left out….
Thank you for sharing this wonderful and most worthy project with me. I would feel most blessed to be part of it. It is worth a life commitment.
The fact that I became an Episcopal priest to carry this vision forward in what became our Cosmic Mass is due in great part to Malidoma. I and many are grateful to him.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 5-16.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Young men of the South African Basotho nation prepare for initiation. Photo by Leo Moko on Unsplash.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you know of Malidoma Somé and his teachings and his personal story? Or of the Cosmic Mass? I share more about both in the accompanying video.