Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chuseokㅡ Remembering the Dead

Today is the 15th of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar, the August Moon Festival known by the name Chuseok or Hangawi. It is one of the more popular festivals deserving of three days of rest from work to be with family. Since we have the older generation here in the mission station there isn't the exodus to the country that you would have in the city parishes.

The morning of Chuseok there is the memorial service for the ancestors and if nearby the visit to the grave. The phrase is often used in English of ancestor worship but for a Catholic more correctly would be respect or veneration for the dead . It is a beautiful custom and although arrived at late by the Church , by many torturous paths, the Church has accepted this into the liturgy as the inculturation that is part and parcel of the teaching of Vatican II

Before Vatican II the National Holidays were not celebrated in the liturgy but since the 1960s we have a Chuseok liturgy in all the Churches of Korea. This morning at 10:30 am, during the Mass, the Catholics approached the altar, putting a stick of incense in a cup filled with rice to remember and pray for their ancestors. After the sermon we also had the short office for the dead. All those who have died are remembered in the Mass. To celebrate the day we also had a meal together to exchange our joy in a more material way.

The Church has decided that the Gospel of the day would be Luke 12:15-22. It is about the foolish rich farmer who was perplexed on what to do with the great harvest. One of the points of the parable is to be rich but of things that count and do not end with death. We are blessed in Korea to have a number of these festivals remembering the dead, that have become part of our liturgy. We still have the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd but the Feast of New Year and Chuseok does give Koreans more time to reflect on the most important aspect of life which is death.

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