The majority of Hongkongers celebrate Christmas on December 25. However, a handful will set aside January 7 as their holy day – that’s the day the Russian Orthodox Church observes Christmas Day and many non-Russian Hongkongers have embraced the faith.
Christmas for Orthodox churches refers to the same holiday as the Catholic Christmas, but is based on the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45BC, instead of the Gregorian calendar.During Soviet times, religion was banned by the communist regime, so New Year festivities replaced Christmas celebrations. In Hong Kong, the Orthodox Church hosts a Christmas service and New Year party.Father Denis Pozdnyaev, of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, says his Easter service is more popular than the Christmas one and, theologically, Easter carries more weight.
“Jesus Christ was born to sacrifice himself for mankind. So his resurrection is an ultimate proof of Jesus’ mission being accomplished,” he says.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Hong Kong has been steadily growing in recent years, with 25 per cent of its members being non-Russians and admits it focuses more on its Chinese followers.
Father Denis says there is a common ground between the Orthodox religion and Chinese culture, especially in moral and ethical values.
They translate the Bible and books about the Orthodox religion and do their services in multiple languages, including Russian, English and Chinese. The number of Orthodox Christians in China is estimated to be about 15,000.
Ambrose Lam, a Chinese Orthodox Christian who came from the mainland, says the early stage of his spiritual journey was not easy.
“Not many people understand the Orthodox religion, so my parents and friends were concerned at the beginning,” he says.
Father Denis says a key misconception of the Orthodox religion was that it is a religion of Russia and for Russians only. In fact, he says, the Orthodox religion is culturally adaptable and its set of values is universal. Still, the development of the Orthodox religion in Hong Kong is closely linked to the history of Russian immigration.
“One of the White Russian emigrants in Hong Kong was the first Russian Orthodox priest, named Dimitry Uspensky,” Pozdnyaeva Kira, also of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, says. “After 1917, he was sent to China and, in 1934, he was appointed as chief priest of the Hong Kong Russian Orthodox community that comprised about 300 to 400 people.
“He stayed in Hong Kong during the hard years of the second world war and passed through all difficulties shoulder to shoulder with locals.”
The life of Father Dimitry, who passed away in 1970, typifies the history of Russian immigration history to Hong Kong. There are 105 Russian Orthodox graves inside the Hong Kong Cemetery, and each of them has its own story to tell.
Historian Jason Wordie says: “The first wave of Russian emigration to Hong Kong could be traced to the 1920s, followed by the second wave in the 1940s. Driven by the October revolution in 1917, some of these emigrants sought refugee status and paved their way to the United States and Australia.
“In fact, there was a refugee category called the White Chinese, which referred to Russians. It also [in the very broadest sense] included those Chinese who did not agree with the communists and left China. White Chinese, in that respect, can be seen as a play on White Russian as opposed to Red Chinese and Red Russians.”
Asked about what impact the Orthodox Church aspires to create for Hong Kong communities, Father Denis says:
“I think the Orthodox Church shall bring to the people of Hong Kong an understanding of the ways of Christian spiritual practice.
“The church first of all takes care of persons, not groups of people, and our mission is to bring the spirit of compassion, love and sense of being to anyone who searches for it in their contemporary, complex and fragmented life.”
Source: Russia beyond the Headlines
fr. radu says
yes, the calendar is a problem in ORTHODOX CHURCH, why he dount enter under Constantinopolitan mitropolit, the russians have the orthodoxy from Constantinopol. ONE CHURCH!
Fr. John says
The Chinese Orthodox Church was autonomous before Constantinople appointed a Metropolitan there, and it was under Russian auspices. Why bother going to Constantinople?
fr. radu says
not problem. for my is more important the sprading of orthodoxy in the world, then jurisdiction. i belong to romanian orthodox church. but i know canonical the teritory outside the autocefalus or autonomus church, come imediatly under Constantinopol. but, u are right, the orthodoxy is more important.
but the chinese orthodox church from nomber point of view is little. what we can do to help? i’d like to go missionar there, but i have no posibility
Fr. John says
Fr. Radu, why not contact Fr. Denis and ask him!
PR. RADU says
how to contact him? or others missionary prists? i am in romania not in america is very hard fro me.
Fr. John says
I would start by finding his church online.
Luke (Chen, Yu) says
I am a recent Chinese convert of Orthodoxy in North America under the jurisdiction of ancient and apostolic see of Antioch. The Orthodox Church in China has been seriously crippled since the Red Box Rebellion and since then she has never been recovered. There reminds a enormous task of revitalizing Orthodoxy in China. In my opinion, the transplant of Orthodoxy in China by Russia Orthodox Mission was cut short in terms of translation of full liturgies, Holy Scriptures (from Septuagint), Writings of Church Fathers, and a complete set of theological language in Chinese from Patristic Greek. Furthermore, Christianization of five thousand years of Chinese civilization, a similar process that was undertaken successfully by church fathers in their own time, is the next logical step for the full flowering of Orthodoxy in this oriental land. Interestingly, Chinese ethos is at very close affinity with Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Hopefully, by the grace of God, the great synthesis of Eastern Orthodox Tradition and Chinese civilization will produce next great theological achievement, a necessary process which is validated by the Incarnation of Divine Logos, of whom every nook and cranny of creation is insinuated.
Glory be to the originated Father, only-begotten Son, and the life-giving Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. AMEN.
fr. radu says
fr. john, u were amish? is that a etnicity or religion? i think we cam prezent orthodoxy for them, they have points very similar with orthodoxy! what u think about this?
Denis Pozdnyaev says
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters! Yopu always can reach Orthodox Church in Hong Kong through http://www.orthodoxy.hk We are thankfull for any support, contribution and your questions! Fr. Dionisy