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Good Friday in China

A Resurrection Experience

By Fr. Kwon Dae-mun

Since I was appointed to mission in China I have been constantly asked what kind of ministry I have been involved in given that mission activity is banned in China. Due to a number of restrictions placed on foreign missionaries, I cannot be involved in parish ministry. However having received invitations from the Chinese church I have been able to give lectures on spirituality and give spiritual direction in seminaries and monasteries as well as direct retreats for Chinese priests and members of religious orders. I am also involved in looking for vocations to the Columban Society in China.

Good Friday procession around the village
Procession around the village

Actually since my student days I have had an ardent desire to get involved in parish ministry. When I was young all the priests in our parish were from Ireland. I always found the way those priests and we believers looked out for and took care of each other very appealing. Having arrived in China and as a kind of a last resort I went to a country parish to a Chinese parish priest that I knew well and celebrated Mass with him and the Catholics. The local parish priest provided me with opportunities to celebrate the Sunday Mass, to bless houses, to baptize people, and to preside at weddings at the Chinese New Year. Last April, at the invitation of the parish priest, I was able to be involved in planning the Holy week ceremonies and to actively participate in them.

On Good Friday the parish priest and the believers gathered outside the church at two o’ clock, and following the way of the cross, we went in procession around the whole village as we meditated on the sufferings and passion of Jesus. We formed two lines with the two people at the front carrying candles followed by the next people in line carrying pictures of the fourteen “stations of the cross.” We sang hymns as we processed around the village. The parish priest and I were in the middle of the procession carrying the cross as we remembered Jesus on his way to Golgotha. I will never forget that long procession with the cross, the sound of the people singing hymns, the local people looking on and the expressions on the faces of the believers. It was such a sacred and affectionate ritual.

When we had completed the hour-long procession we gathered in the church to celebrate the Good Friday liturgy. During the ritual of the kissing of the cross I was struck by the way the people kissed not only the feet but also the calves, knees, the back, shoulders, arms and even the head of the figure of Jesus. On seeing this I became perplexed as I always understood that during this part of the liturgy people went to the front of the church and kissed the feet of the figure of Jesus hanging from the cross.

The procession returns to the church for Good Friday litergy
The procession returns to church for Good Friday litergy.

I found that my heart was beating heavily as I observed what I considered Jesus enduring this treatment. I thought that Jesus appeared to be like a young child, or like a patient that was suffering from a lingering disease, or even like an estranged neighbor longing to be accepted and loved. Jesus appeared to be a completely 11weak person craving assistance from those who had come to kiss Him. He seemed to be sorry for troubling the people that He sought assistance from.

I had a strong feeling that Jesus sincerely wanted our love and craved our attention. Just like us humans He was seeking to be helped, loved and touched. Of course, there are those who might reject such a weak and needy Jesus believing that only a resurrected and glorious Jesus could be capable of consoling and giving strength to the tired and weary of this world. I found that my heart was in a knot, and I was not able to control the flow of tears as I continued to observe the Catholics kissing the Jesus figure hanging from the cross. This extremely human appearance of Jesus who desired our care and concern, our love and human touch was in itself His desire to be one with us. At the same time, I also felt that how great was the love each of us possessed. Hanging from the cross suffering greatly, Jesus provided us with strength to discover our compassion and love. Having received that strength, we could overcome suffering and death and be led to the glory of the resurrection.

We have resurrection experiences each time we show sincere compassion by helping our suffering neighbors by touching their wounds. We can be instruments of salvation for other wounded souls when we express the love that we have within us. It is possible for us to save others by showing our love and compassion. It is like when Jesus through love and compassion cured the many that were sick and those possessed by evil spirits. I am sincerely grateful to God who led me to experience this on the Good Friday I spent in that country parish and ask that you pray unceasingly for the church in China.

Columban Fr. Kwon Dae-mun was appointed to the Taiwan Mission Unit in 2010 and the China Mission Unit in China in 2015. He studied Spirituality at Fordham University. The article was translated by Noel Mackey.