A central problem facing the Church and the Maori is the problem of reconciliation, the reconciliation of Maoritanga, 'being Maori', and Christianity. This is all the more urgent in that we are seeing a return to Maoritanga, a Maoritanga often little or badly understood, and a Maoritanga which more and more is being chosen as an alternative religion. "What is my religion? Maoritanga." This is a New Zealand version of a world wide movement of people seeking their own ethnic identity.

In Easter 1977 I was fortunate in being able to take part in a family reunion at Mangamuka marae, ancestral meeting place, a family reunion which itself was seeking a reconciliation between the old Maori ways of the country and the new Maori life in the cities. This provided an ideal opportunity for finding a way to reconcile Maoritanga and Western Christianity, a way for Jesus to become one with this family at its deepest level, transforming and uplifting the deepest religious aspirations of this Maori people, and providing in Jesus himself a way to reconcile the older generation in the country with the younger and new generation growing up in the cities.

What follows is an attempt to describe the hui, 'meeting', at Mangamuka and to show its significance - a Maori theology revealed in and through a Maori Easter liturgy. It is an attempt to show that we can have unity in Faith and Love without uniformity, a unity in which there is no watering down of the Faith and which fully respects Maori culture.


Mangamuka is situated in the middle of Northland, about thirty kilometres south of Kaitaia, on the main north road, at the upper reaches of the Hokianga. The marae at Mangamuka is the central meeting place of the Ngaapuhi people, and its meeting house, named 'Ngapuhi', is one of the few carved meeting houses in the north. Alongside the meeting house there is a monument to Kupe, a special stone discovered by a Ngaapuhi matakite, or seer, and behind the meeting house, a small paddock away, there is a Catholic Church.

For the Ngaapuhi people, the Hokianga is not only the arrival place of their ancestor Kupe, but also the spiritual heart of Aotearoa-New Zealand, the well-spring of spiritual mana, of spiritual power, for all Aotearoa.

The Toki-Pangari family which held this family re-union, is a branch of the Ngaapuhi people, a branch which traces its descent back to the Tokimatahorua (Matawhaorua) canoe, which came to New Zealand after Kupe's return home and guided by his instructions. Toki-Pangari himself was a chief of the upper Hokianga. He is mentioned in Percy Smith's Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century as leading a Ngaapuhi war-party into Taranaki about 1816-17 and it was he who gave a small piece of land at Totara Point, on the northern upper reaches of the Hokianga harbour, to Bishop Pompellior, the Catholic Bishop who landed in the Hokianga in 1838. This was the beginning of a strong Catholic link with the Pangari family.

With the Maori migration into the cities over the last thirty to forty years the family has spread throughout New Zealand and I suspect has some members in every major New Zealand city. This has lead to a breakdown of family links and to a loss of identity. About the beginning of 1976 a 'Second Generation Committee' was formed in Auckland to find some means of renewing the family links and of reuniting the older generations with the younger generations, of reconciling the old Maori way of the country with the new ways of the city.

It was decided, therefore, that the family should go back to their meeting house, to their ancestors. And so the 'Second Generation Committee' in Auckland, working with the guidance of the family back at Mangamuka, and under the leadership of Joe Toki, the senior elder of the family, who lived at Mangamuka, organized the family reunion. So about 150 members of the family, plus a group of 50 specially invited Cook Islanders, came together at Mangamuka, Easter 1977.

It was not just a family gathering in our European understanding of a family gathering, but a return to the ancestors. This takes us right to the heart of Maoritanga, of Maori culture, and its deepest expression, the recitation of the whakapapa, the 'genealogy'. Only in so far as we understand this can we understand the significance of the hui, 'meeting', at Mangamuka, and the significance of the Easter Liturgy when brought into and celebrated in this setting.

Many of the people who came to Mangamuka had been away for a long time, and for those from the Cook Islands, this was their first visit. So when they walked onto the marae they brought not only themselves, but their dead as well. For the Cook Islanders, this meant their ancestors going back to Kupe, the ancestors and the descendants of the ancestors left behind when Kupe set out for New Zealand.

And they were welcomed, not only into the living community calling them onto the marae, but also into the community of the living dead, represented by the Meeting House and the carvings of the ancestors around the walls inside the Meeting House. And when we took off our shoes and walked into the Meeting House, the first people we were introduced to were the immediate ancestors of the Toki-Pangari family, going back about five generations, their photos hung on the back wall of the Meeting House.

The ancestors were mentioned and addressed in every speech in the Meeting House. The whole week-end was lived in their presence, culminating in Joe Toki's recitation of the genealogy on the Saturday night and again on Easter Sunday morning. For Joe Toki, the heart of Maoritanga, 'Maoriness', is the genealogy. As Joe explained it to me, we Catholics ascend through the Saints to God. The Maori first descends to his ancestors and then, through and with them, ascends to God. You need yourself to go onto a marae to experience something of this meeting with the dead, the living dead, to experience the Maori anamnesis, not just a remembering, but a here and now being with the people and events of the past.

This was the setting for the Easter Liturgy, the setting into which the crucified Jesus was received on Good Friday afternoon.


When the Auckland committee arranged the programme for the hui, 'meeting', time was set aside for prayers and services - half-an-hour on Thursday evening; for Good Friday, a full hour in the morning and half- an-hour at night; for Holy Saturday, two hours in the morning; and again two hours on Easter Sunday morning.

I have been told since that there was some hesitation from the elders, not on having the prayers, but on having them as part of the official programme. This hesitation expresses the problem I mentioned right at the beginning, the problem underlying the whole hui, how can we reconcile the old generation with the new generation, the old Maori ways with the new, and Maoritanga, 'being Maori', with Christianity.

On my arrival on Holy Thursday evening I found I was the only minister present and the responsibility for the prayers and services was mine. This is the usual Maori way. Whatever minister turns up is invited to lead the prayers, and if there are several ministers, they are normally asked to combine for the services. I was fortunate in having some knowledge of the family and some understanding of the ancestor centred nature of the hui, 'meeting'. So, after talking it over with Joe Toki, we decided on two things.

First, we would use the Catholic Easter Liturgy, with some changes. The more action and less long prayers and readings the better. The Catholic Easter Liturgy provided plenty of action to hold even children's interest, while the prayers and readings could be cut down to a minimum.

Even for a Catholic going to Mass every day, the prayers and readings are long and difficult to understand. You need to be a scripture scholar to understand a lot of the readings, or else to have been attending the Easter Liturgy for years. At Mangamuka there were only a few Catholics, and of these, most were not regular church goers, and as well, there were Mormons, Anglicans, Ratana and Presbyterians. But, as mentioned above, the Toki-Pangari family has strong Catholic links. So the family was quite happy to have the Catholic liturgy, even though this meant a radical change in the timetable.

The second decision was to have almost all the liturgy in the Meeting House and, with Joe Toki's advice and help, to adjust the liturgy accordingly. Over the last few years various experiments have been tried at the Wellington Diocese Catholic Maori Easter hui at adapting the liturgy to the Maori situation. But because of the numbers taking part in the Easter hui, usually about two thousand people, the liturgy has been held either in a huge tent, or in the open, not in the meeting house itself.

It was the decision to celebrate the liturgy in the Meeting House which made the difference. The liturgy was given a new Maori significance, with lasting impact, and the people were able to take part in a Maori way with real understanding and awareness of what they were doing.


Most of the people did not arrive till the early hours of Good Friday morning, so on Holy Thursday night I said the Holy Thursday Mass, the Last Supper Mass, for the few Catholics there, in the little Catholic Church across the paddock from the Marae. The first major liturgical function for the hui was the celebration of Jesus' Suffering and Death, at three o'clock on the Friday afternoon, after talking through with Joe Toki what we would do.

Going across to the Church with Joe, I took the crucifix down from the back wall, behind the altar. This was a deeply significant action for Joe. In his Maori thinking, only I could take the Crucifix down from the wall.

Then we drove back to the marae, were greeted with a most moving karanga, wailing call of welcome, from the women, and, as is the Maori custom in the north for receiving a dead body, took the Crucifix right into the Meeting House and laid it on the floor at the centre against the back wall and on a beautiful feather cloak that had been weaved especially for the hui.

After I had read a shortened account of the Passion we chanted the No te hohonutanga, the 'de profundis' psalm. The chanting of the No te hohonutanga for the dead is a strong Catholic Maori custom in the north. This was followed by the speeches and songs delivered by whoever wanted to greet the Crucified Jesus.

Then everybody came up to greet the crucifix individually, most kissing the crucifix, and finally Joe and myself took the crucifix back to the Church, thus paralleling the burial. A few Catholics also came over to the Church for the short communion service. All were welcome to come over to the Church, but in fact only the Catholics came.

There seems, at first sight, little difference between this and the normal Catholic Good Friday liturgy. But by moving the setting onto the marae and following the normal northern Maori custom for the kawe mate, the bringing of a death back to a marae, we crossed right over into the Maori world.

For all of us present, Catholics, Anglicans, Ratana, Mormons, Cook Island Presbyterians, it was no longer a cross we were receiving, but Jesus himself. And we could all participate, all speak to Jesus, greet the crucified Jesus, each in his or her own way.

I had often wondered how to even begin to work out a Maori liturgy, thinking in terms of something new. The Mangamuka experience showed that there is no need to make up a Maori liturgy for Good Friday. It already exists in the Maori rite for the dead. The Maori know what to do and can take part with understanding. Moreover this liturgy means much more to the Maori and its effects are lasting. To Maori thinking, the marae at Mangamuka has received the body of Christ and every body that is laid on that marae in the future is laid on the spot where Christ has been laid.


The next major liturgical action was on Easter Saturday night, following a simplified version of the Easter Vigil service and leaving out the eight readings and many of the prayers.

As soon as it was dark we gathered outside the Meeting House. All the lights were put out, even the lights of the dining hall. After the blessing of the new fire, I lit a candle from the fire, the candle signifying the light of the risen Christ, and, carrying the candle, led the people into the Meeting House, when the lights were put on again.

Then we had the special prayer over the candle, thanking God for this night of Jesus' Resurrection, and this was followed by the blessing of water and the renewal of our baptismal promises, with a pause for the Mormons present to renew their own commitment to Jesus. I then blessed the House and everybody in it, sprinkling them with the newly blessed water. After this we had the normal Maori speeches and songs that follow any service on the marae, but Joe Toki, even though he had decided to have the genealogy on the Sunday after the Mass, and had called a special meeting to change the programme for this, used this time to recite the genealogy.

What I think was most significant was the shift brought about in the whole meaning of this Easter Saturday liturgy. The shift was brought about, especially because it was held in the Meeting House. There is a section in the Creed which the West practically ignores, that is, the descent of Jesus into Hell, not the Hell as we understand it, but the 'Sheol' of the Jews, the night where the dead wait in darkness for the coming of the Messiah, the one hoped for.

A contemporary German theologian, Karl Rahner, has realised the importance of this. He sees the death of Jesus as completed only through his descent into the night of the dead. This is the liminal stage, the passing-over stage, between life in this world and life in the eternal world of God.

Now when I took the candle into the Meeting House, the home of the ancestors, its light lighting up all the carvings of the ancestors around the walls, and lighting up the whole of the Meeting House, this, for the Maori, was Jesus entering the night, going to all the ancestors to lead them out of the darkness, te poo, into the world of light, te ao marama.

Every now and then there is a discussion at Maori funerals as to where the dead go, to the night, (we repeatedly say haere ki te poo, 'go to the night') or to heaven. But for at least a few of us at Mangamuka, it was clear. Jesus himself went into the night, to the place of the ancestors, to lead them into the world of light, into heaven.

This was the significance of Joe Toki's recital of the genealogy that night. As I mentioned, he had already decided that the Mass should precede the recitation of the genealogy and, therefore, he had changed the key moment of the hui, the recitation of the genealogy, from Saturday afternoon to after the Mass on Sunday. But, after the Saturday night liturgy, with all its Maori implications, shifting the Western Easter Saturday night emphasis on Jesus' Resurrection to his entering into the fulness of death, going into the night of the ancestors, it was most fitting for Joe to recite the genealogy then.

In my view it was this night that became the centre of our Mangamuka Easter hui, and the point of reconciliation between Maoritanga, 'Maoriness', and Christianity. It was also very clear that there is a need to produce a Maori liturgy for Easter Saturday that will recognize this.


Next day, Easter Sunday, we celebrated the normal Easter Mass commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus. We began the Mass in front of the Meeting House and then, because of the cold, moved inside the Meeting House. The readings for this Mass are about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, so it was easy to relate this event, Jesus' conquering of death, to the story of Maui where death is recognized as our major enemy. Maui attempts to overcome death for all of us by himself passing through Hine-nui-i-te-poo, the great woman of the night. Where he failed, Jesus succeeded. Maui is a key figure in many northern genealogies, including the Toki-Pangari genealogy.

The reference to the story of Maui in our Mangamuka liturgy helped to link the Christian liturgy with the whole Maori religious experience and history. It also helped us to be more aware of what we were doing, of the significance of this Mangamuka liturgy joining centuries of religious tradition, Maori and Pakeha. And with a heightened awareness, there is a heightened participation in the liturgical action.

Moreover, the Catholic Mass, the basic Catholic liturgical action, seen in Maori terms, is the karakia, 'ritual chant', the Maori liturgical prayer.

Karakia are ritual chants that are handed down over the centuries. They are the 'words of the ancestors', their mana, 'power', coming from the mana given to the people by God and especially present in the person of the Ariki, 'High Priest'. When the ariki recites the karakia, the ariki is one with all his or her ancestors and spirits and one with his or her people.

So at Mangamuka Jesus, through the Easter Liturgy, becomes one with the Toki-Pangari family, living and dead, and the Mass becomes the memorial, in the Jewish Scripture sense of memorial, the 'making effective in the present of an event in the past', of Jesus' aroha, his 'oneness in love', with the people even to the completion of death in the poo, the 'night', of the ancestors.

Through the Eucharistic Prayer, the central prayer, of the Mass, Jesus our Ariki, our 'High Priest', one with the Toki-Pangari family and all people, living and dead, in his perfection of aroha, 'love', asks the Father for his koha, his gift in response to that perfect aroha, asks for the Holy Spirit.

Seen as a karakia, the Mass is not alien to the Maori, but the most powerful of all karakia, and a fitting way to give recognition to God. God the Father has accepted this sacrifice of love, of aroha, of his Son, our Ariki, Jesus. The acceptance was shown by Jesus' resurrection. God the Father must, therefore, give us his koha, his gift, the Holy Spirit, in response to the aroha of Jesus.


This description of each day's liturgy does give us some understanding of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection in Maori terms, and as we develop an understanding of the Jewish anamnesis, of the Jewish memorial, we open the way to an understanding of the Maori anamnesis, which finds its deepest expression in the recitation of the genealogy.

When we walked onto the marae at Mangamuka on Thursday evening and greeted the ancestors, we cut right through this world, te ao marama, 'the world of light', and entered the world of the ancestors and the world of Rangi and Papa, also signified in the meeting house. On Good Friday afternoon, by welcoming the crucified Jesus onto the marae, we received Jesus into this Maori world.

On Easter Saturday night, in his descent into te poo, 'the night', the completing act of his dying, Jesus enters into the night world of the ancestors, becomes one with all the Maori people who have died, to lead them into the eternal world of his Father. With the recitation of the genealogy during that ritual, we entered into the centre of creation, returning to the eternal present source of all being, all action, the eternally present creative act of God, of Io.

The crucifix itself then became the stake striking into the heart of the creative act and turning, transforming, the creative act into the new creative act of divine, redeeming love. This is the point of reconciliation, the Maori anamnesis expressed in the recitation of the genealogy finding its completion in the Christian anamnesis of the Easter liturgy.

What we did at Mangamuka, as one Maori put it, was to throw a stone into the heart of the whirlpool, to place Jesus and his crucifixion into the centre of the creative activity, and the ripples flowing from that celebration at Mangamuka are still spreading out into the Ngaapuhi people and beyond, reconciling the old people with the young, the ancient world of the Maori with the world of Western Christianity brought to it over a hundred and fifty years ago in European cultural terms, but gradually being understood and transformed in Maori cultural terms.

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