ASIA/CHINA - A Christian look at the "Chinese New Year". The Lenten message of Bishop Joseph Gan

Wednesday, 7 February 2024

Guangzhou (Agenzia Fides) - This year again, as happens from time to time, the beginning of Lent coincides with the festive days of the Chinese New Year. A coincidence linked to the fact that the two events are fixed in time according to the lunar calendar. At first glance, the two events seem contradictory: Lent is a time of fasting, abstinence and penance, while New Year is a time of joyful celebration. In his Pastoral Letter for Lent 2024, Bishop Joseph Gan Junqiu, head of the Archdiocese of Guangzhou, shows how the Christian vision can dissolve this apparent contradiction. “In reality,” writes the Chinese Bishop, “all actions motivated by the intention to love are ultimately directed toward God. Thus, “as we leave the solitude of urban life behind us, we put an end to the distance which separates us from our loved ones and we return home, where the joy of being with family reigns. At the same time, we can live the Liturgy of Ashes recognizing that it is also a call from the Eternal Father to us, a call to return home."
In his Pastoral Letter for Lent 2024 entitled "O God, create in me a pure heart" (Ps 51, 10), Bishop Joseph shows "how we, Christians, can immerse ourselves in the love and forgiveness of God in this family holiday period. The New Year, underlines the Bishop of Guangzhou, is a “farewell to the past to welcome the future”. In the Christian journey, in the same way, the experience of forgiveness and repentance for one's sins is also a "farewell to the past" and a confident march towards the time to come. In such an experience, “we become full of joy and hope for life, we are made new by the love of Christ, in the grace of God.” Lent is “the time of preparation for the joy of Easter.” And precisely, the time of the Chinese New Year, underlines Mgr Gan, is a golden opportunity to bear witness to the Catholic faith to and with one's family. One can attend "the New Year's Eve Thanksgiving Mass with our families, where the whole family can come together to thank God for His protection and blessings during the past year, and to ask God's blessing for peace and the health of our family members and our work. By praying and receiving the sacraments with our loved ones, we can also embrace, in gratitude to Jesus, the festive and grateful mood of the Chinese New Year." Thus, "we not only cherish the uniqueness of the Catholic faith while remaining fully immersed in our traditional culture, but we can show that the Christian faith is a gift that always remains in our hearts, no matter what.” During the New Year celebration – we read in the pastoral letter – Christians can pray, read and meditate on the Word of God, and take care of their neighbour. "The Chinese New Year, insists Mgr Gan, is a auspicious time to care for others, starting with the elderly, the sick, the lonely and those in difficulty. “We can experience God's blessing and peace during the Spring Festival by spending time with our families, praying in communion and caring for others,” concludes Bishop Gan. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 7/2/2024)