Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy Dog Year!

The Useless Tree, which explores "ancient Chinese thought in American Life," offers an interesting reflection on the Chinese character "fu," or happiness/fortune. When a Chinese Eastern-rite Catholic reader took off on that theme and drew a connection between Confucian "fu" and the Chinese translation of the Ave Maria prayer, which begins with "Wan-FU Ma-li-ya," Useless Tree asked, "how would Christian grace relate to Confucian duty?" I couldn't help but respond and grab the opportunity to explore how Catholicism integrates my ethnicity without rejecting or destroying it:
Not to speak for Mr. Yong, but I believe he's referring to that aspect of "grace" which connotes blessedness, beatitude, and plenitude. To draw perhaps a poor Confucian analogy from Yong's reference to the Ave Maria prayer, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the biblical scene from which the Ave Maria derives, is honored for being the most dutiful and filial among the daughters of her Heavenly Father. Through her free, affirmative submission to the Father's will, she becomes the tabernacle for the Incarnate Son, who all Christians profess to be their Lord and Savior. Therein lies her "grace" and the fulfillment of her "duty" as "the handmaid of the Lord." She thus becomes a model and Mother to all Christians.

There are many quasi-Confucian relations at work, especially in the Catholic interpretation of the Gospels' Nativity story: father-son (both heavenly and earthly), mother-son, father-daughter, husband-wife, cousins/siblings (not strongly distinguished in biblical times), even ancestor veneration if we analogize to the genealogies of Christ in Matthew and Luke. Of course, familial duties are not emphasized as they are in Confucianism, but they're implicit, with a Christocentric, rather than a horizontal humanistic focus. Just my two cents. Gong xi fa cai!