Theophany at the Chinese mission of the Kyivan Church in Richmond

Theophany at the Chinese mission of the Kyivan Church in Richmond January 6, 2018
The tub of Abraham - photo by Abraham Wong
The tub of Abraham – photo by Abraham Wong

There is nowhere on earth like the Chinese mission of the Kyivan Church, the place where it is perfectly normal to be ‘Eastern Catholic’ because you’re Chinese. I never realized that it was a thing in the Kyivan Church that we were the ‘Chinese mission’ until I moved to Chicago. There, I learned that if you are Chinese and in the Kyivan Church, eyebrows furrow in puzzlement until you reveal that you are from Richmond. Then it all makes sense.

There’s no place quite like home. Here, the sound of Eastern Catholicism is like Pentecostal folk singing. We are loud, we are brash, we are chaotic, sometimes we are in tune, but we are always enthusiastic. I was the cantor tonight. I have never been trained as a cantor. It was all Spirit, pure synergy. I couldn’t even fake it to make it.

And yet, as Father said tonight, suddenly we are no longer in Richmond. It is Theophany. We are there, in the Jordan, as the Lord is being baptized by the Forerunner. The Jordan water is the water of creation. My friend Abraham took this pictures because I couldn’t as I was cantoring. Abraham is also the one who brought the tub, as he is of the opinion that drinking holy water has medicinal properties. I am not sure if he holds these views because of the wax or Father’s breath. Either way, it is a remarkable feat of inculturation, as his understanding of Jordan water aligns well with the notion of Cantonese soup having therapeutic qualities. We are not a holy water cult, we explain to the evangelicals he has brought to visit. We are even weirder: we’ve been transported to the site of the baptism of the Lord.

The Spirit descends and renews creation. Here we were, our small community made up of a smattering of Chinese Protestants coming through the catechumenate pipeline, evangeliCatholics from the Latin Church finding charismatic connection in our liturgy, and regulars who came out of sheer curiosity and stayed. We had so many visitors tonight: top dog liturgy scholars here in Vancouver for a conference, theologically educated Protestants, Latin Church traditionalists, Hong Kong people who had been on the streets during the Umbrella Movement and knew that we had stood in prayerful solidarity with them – and those who disagreed with them too! Eugenia Geisel, a student in that stupid class where I bombastically declared that Eastern Christianities have nothing to do with Asia and came to eat my words in a matter of months by becoming Eastern Catholic, came up to celebrate with us.

This beautiful chaos is the charism of the Kyivan Church, the joy of the people who emerged from the modern catacombs of the Soviet Union with their faith so much more strongly rooted in Christ Our Pascha that they dare to perform the works of makrodiakonia, of a theology that tests the spirits and enacts a critical praxis that truly liberates in the material world by taking seriously its supernatural constitution. All creation is filled with rejoicing today, for Christ is baptized in the Jordan.

Originally posted on my Facebook.

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