Monday, December 26, 2016

Continuing the Christmas theme

There's a good read to be found at The Japan Times on the "first" Japanese Christmas. 

Those missionaries really made converts work for their salvation:
The Christmas of 1552 could hardly have been more different from the Christmases we know today. Familiar Yuletide iconography — Christmas trees, reindeers, mistletoe and the like — was not yet established anywhere in the world (and, naturally, there was not a whiff of the commercialism that marks modern-day Christmas festivities.) The setting for this Christmas was the abandoned Daido-ji Buddhist temple, converted into the Jesuits’ house of worship and living quarters. It would be among the first of Japan’s nanban-dera, or southern barbarian temples, the name given to the makeshift Christian churches housed in Buddhist buildings, with shoji and engawa (a type of terrace) and, often the sole exterior visual difference, a cross erected upon the kawara roof tiles.

On Christmas Eve, Japanese believers were invited to spend the night in the Jesuit living quarters, cramming the venue as they embarked upon an all-nighter of hymns, sermons, scripture readings and Masses. For today’s readers, at least, de Alcacova’s account comes across as a rather gruelling experience, although there’s no reason to doubt the missionary’s numerous references to the “great joy” of the Japanese converts. From dusk until dawn, the new converts were treated to sermons and readings about “Deus” — the Portuguese word for God. The entire celebration contained no fewer than six Masses.

Father Juan Fernandez, an important Jesuit who wrote the West’s first lexicon of Japanese, opened the midnight scripture sessions. When his voice grew weary, he was relieved by “a Japanese youth with knowledge of our language,” de Alcacova writes. At the crack of dawn, Cosme de Torres — leader of the Jesuit mission after Xavier’s departure for India — led a new Mass, while another priest read passages from the gospels and the Epistles. After this night of Christian immersion, the faithful were allowed to go home, likely exchanging greetings of “Natala” — the Portuguese word for Christmas, meaning “birth.”
 There is much more of interest in this lengthy article, which you can read here.

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