The faith of local Christians is like “strands of grass [. . .] that shyly sprout from the stony soil” of the Gobi Desert. One woman got a furlough from hospital to come to pray. Catechumens are the most excited, including some youth who took part in the event for the first time.
Arvaikheer (AsiaNews) – "Nothing outside indicated that Easter had arrived. No matter, not even the paraskevi 2,000 years ago must have been different for most people, yet it changed history!” writes Fr Giorgio Marengo, a Consolata missionary in Mongolia since 2003, with respect to this year’s Easter Triduum in the steppes of Asia.
His congregation may be small, 27 members, but their faith is strong. The faith of local Christians “is as strong as strands of grass, [. . .] that shyly sprout from the stony soil” of the Gobi Desert. On Holy Saturday, "we joined hands around the altar, and apologised to each other” for daily disagreements can damage small communities. “Tears flowed in abundance, and long sighs promised a new beginning. We can start to love each other again!” Fr Marengo’s Easter message follows.
This year the beautiful blue sky of Mongolia partly darkened on Good Friday. A cold blast blew in for a last time, as if to scold the first slender grass that shyly sprout from the rocky soil. It is as if nature joined somehow the mysterious events of the Paschal Triduum. . .
Locals’ faith is as strong as strands of grass, tried by an often hostile environment, unaware perhaps of the new spring they found inside, coming to our ger to pray intensely and participate in Easter liturgies. Ours is a small but loyal group. There is a woman who should be in the hospital, where she was taken because of her blood problems, who asked for a furlough before going back for her next treatment.
This and more was done to pray. The catechumens were the most excited, including some youths who came for the first time. Even at this time, many local children and young people meet at mission every day to play and do their homework. A few stay for the liturgy, but no one feels forced. It is a gift, the greatest, but for this reason, it must remain unconditional.
On Holy Saturday came the fire, held back by the usual chilly spring wind. People went inside the ger holding a lit candle in the dark, giving way to the light of the many candles. We sang only the first part of the Exsultet, followed by a poet who continued to recite it in the Mongolian style. The great biblical narratives were born in such a context, tied to the rhythms of nomadic life and the moon. Just like in Mongolia.
Nothing outside indicated that Easter had arrived. No matter, even the paraskevi 2,000 years ago must have been different for most people, yet it changed history! What matters is being with the Lord who also rose today, in the steppe that slopes towards the Gobi Desert, as well as in the chaos of the capital Ulaanbaatar. Everyone came together to enjoy the words of the liturgy after preparing them during a half-day retreat on Holy Saturday.
The occurrence has become a regular, eagerly awaited event every year. It is a time to encounter God's mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation and turn it into forgiveness offered and received.
In a small community (27 registered baptisms), disagreements can cause long-term damage to relations. Thus, on Holy Saturday we joined hands around the altar, and apologised to each other. Tears flowed in abundance, and long sighs promised a new beginning. We can start to love each other again!
It is at this deeper level that the passage, Easter occurs. These people teach us this with their lives and their commitment. Happy Easter from Mongolia!
* Consolata missionary