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A most suitable liturgy for inculturation into Asian spiritualities

HONG KONG (SE): “Of all the western liturgies, I believe that the Byzantine rite is the easiest to inculturate into Asian spiritualities,” the vicar general of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Melbourne, Australia, Right Reverend Olexander Kenez, told the Sunday Examiner.

He described it as a liturgy that looks as if it has been in southern China for 100 years, as it has similar musical themes, local instruments like gongs and bells, as well as the abundant use of incense.

“The concept of Theos (God becoming man) in the Byzantine rite is also consistent with deep Confucian philosophy,” he explained.

He said that an introduction to Byzantine theology makes sense in terms of addressing dynasty, and he believes that the eastern expression of Christianity has a lot to offer in the context of the spiritual traditions of Asia. “Especially in terms of liturgy and the spirituality of the family,” he added.

Being present at a Byzantine Mass can be reminiscent of sitting in a Buddhist temple, listening to the chanting of the monks, conscious of the aroma of the incense and aware of the ritual being performed in unseen places.

Father Kenez explained that this is why the director of the Commission on Liturgy in Hong Kong, Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai, invited him to come to the territory and speak about the eastern tradition of Christian spirituality and pray its liturgies among the people.

“When I arrived, he said he wanted to do the liturgy in Cantonese,” Father Kenez reminisced at the end of a Mass celebrated in Father Law’s parish in Ng Wah Catholic College on October 9. “I asked him how many months we had to prepare it, but he replied, ‘Two days!’”

Father Kenez quipped, “He is either foolish or really believes in God!”

Amidst the good humour of the 250 or so people who attended the Mass, Father Law responded, “Father Kenez, you are really a liturgist. I hope one day you will be a missionary in Hong Kong.”