Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year

Today is the Lunar New Year, and because of the three-day holiday followed by the weekend we will have five days to celebrate. It is a family holiday, and many will try to be with family. No longer having the extended family as in the past, members of separated families are leaving the hustle and bustle of the  big cities to spend a few days with family in the  quiet of the country.

This morning the first thing to be remembered by everyone are those who have died and given them life. There will be the Charye ritual (praying for the dead)  and then Saebae, bowing to the living family members, exchanging well wishes, and having breakfast together. The Church respects this family ritual and wants to see it continued. The Catholics often end the morning by going to Mass at the parish church.

We will have Mass at the Gyodong mission station at 10:30 am. This Mass and the office of the dead will  be attended by  families whose ancestral home is considered to be Gyodong. These visitors, many of them returning to be with parents and grandparents, will often be at the Mass offered for the deceased.

The first reading in the liturgy today is taken from Numbers chapter 6:22-27, the priestly blessing on the Israelites. The second reading is taken from James 4:13-15, asking us not to be presumptuous about the future. The Gospel is taken from Luke 12:35-40, where we are told to prepare to meet our ancestors and the  coming of Jesus into our lives.

New Year for the Korean is the time when the old and the new, the deceased  and the living, heaven and earth, and the family join in preparing for another year. It should be a time for  reflection and to recall what is important in life, instead of getting caught  up in the fast pace of modern life, forgetting why we are here and where we are going.

A German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper informs us "that the essence of leisure is an 'attitude of mind' and a 'condition of the soul.' True leisure involves contemplation and being receptive to things as they are in themselves. It means being open to things without regard to their value or how we can make use of them. The only way that we can enter true leisure is by stepping outside the routine of our daily life."

The time we take to be with family should provide us with the opportunity to break this routine, to cultivate the attitude of mind and condition of soul that Pieper believes will bring us true leisure, a time for recalling the important things in life.

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