Friday, 19 June 2009
Back when I was the highly-paid Managing Editor of the now sadly defunct Tokyo Journal magazine, I asked Peter Takeo Okada, the Archbishop of Tokyo to contribute a Xmas message for our December 2006 issue. This is what he came up with.
457 years ago, in 1549, Christianity was introduced into Japan by St. Francis Xavier. Very brutal persecutions followed during the feudal period, and since then Christians in Japan have remained only one percent of the Japanese population. In spite of this fact, there are some big Christian events that have been openly accepted by the people in Japan. These are the Christmas celebration and wedding ceremonies at churches.
Every year on Christmas I celebrate Holy Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Tokyo.
It is amazing to see many people who are non-Christians also attend the Mass on Christmas. During the Mass non-Christians are not allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist, but only a blessing, and yet so many people happily approach the priests to receive the special blessing at Christmas. On the other hand, though Easter is rather a more important religious event for Christians it is not as widely celebrated as Christmas among non-Christian people in Japan. How should we consider these phenomena?
Both the Christmas celebration and wedding ceremonies are happy events. It seems Japanese people tend to join merry and joyful events regardless of religious differences. I took this once as thoughtlessness and lack of principles among Japanese people. But now I think that these could be good opportunities for evangelization by the church in Japan, and they could be chances to approach people with the Good News.
Christmas is a celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ, and in fact by His birth we could be lead to celebrate the birthday of all mankind. Therefore it is truly good and joyful to celebrate Christmas as a feast for all men and women.
However, Christmas is also a time to focus on the common problems of all mankind, such as wars, conflicts, various kinds of violence & injustice, violation of human rights, poverty, discrimination, and disease. It is not only a joyful celebration but also a time to think and discuss what we should do and not do to help people. Then, Christmas is the time to work together to bring about true happiness and peace for all mankind by overcoming religious, racial, national, and cultural differences.
For that reason, it is necessary all the more for people to turn their eyes to the crucified Christ on the cross.