Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Saturday, 30 March 2024
Celebrating Easter in Mongolia: The modest joy of a people
Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, shares the rituals and traditions of the small Catholic community of Mongolia, saying they gather during the Triduum to share their Christian joy in a modest manner.

Cardinal Giorgio Marengo/ :

Holy Week is experienced in Mongolia as a truly strong, special, and unique time. For at least two years, adult catechumens have prepared for this moment, the fundamental passage of their lives.


Accompanying them on this journey helps us missionaries relive the wonder and radical nature of this mystery.


In this sense, being here with these brothers and sisters who wish to freely welcome the death and resurrection of Christ into their lives encourages us to make the celebration our own and to live it with intensity and renewed awareness.


Passion Sunday sees our communities waving slender conifer branches (palms and olives are too far away), just recovering from the long winter.


The modest processions, always held only within spaces recognized by the authorities, are often lashed by cold and dusty winds.


Here, spring is the most challenging season, with sudden temperature swings, weakened herds, and people tested in body. The mystery of our regeneration occurs at the most critical moment of the natural cycle, almost as if Our Lord chose this season to reach the lowest point of our poor humanity.


The celebration of the Chrism Mass brought forward to Tuesday represents an important appointment for priests who also come from the farthest posts.


They renew their priestly promises in a cathedral with a few faithful and several religious sisters. Then, we pause for a brief reflection on the mystery of the ordained priesthood and joyfully share lunch.


Returning to the parishes must happen at restricted times to avoid the risks of still-icy roads.


Each parish lives the Holy Triduum by carefully preparing the liturgies and hosting the bishop, who tries to be present at least in the communities of the capital.


Then comes the holy night. The fire crackles inside the traditional altar, a symbol of the family. All around, congested traffic and the flickering lights of the city, mostly unaware of what is happening.


The cathedral, shaped like a ger (Mongolian tent), is enveloped in darkness, which thins at the entrance of the procession with the paschal candle and the candles of the faithful.


The Exsultet is sung in Mongolian; with its poetic images, it recalls the lyrical compositions of the local tradition.


Shortly thereafter, the catechumens will approach the baptismal font and don the white of new life; some arrive in the deel (traditional dress) made especially for the occasion. They share a few tears of emotion, much composure, and much joy, even without grand external manifestations.


Experienced in this way, the holy days of Easter are a true blessing, even for those who have walked longer in faith. Everything contributes to recovering the freshness of faith.


On Easter Monday, we missionaries gather in Khandgait, in the woods just outside Ulaanbaatar, where the Apostolic Prefecture has a spirituality house. We celebrate in a small wooden chapel, warmed the day before for the occasion.


Some years it snows abundantly, other times the spring sun shines. Each of us feels profoundly changed by the experiences of the previous days, and we praise the Risen Lord for the new community members who have been reborn to new life in the waters of baptism.


In our ears and hearts is Jesus' question after washing his disciples' feet: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” (cf. John 13:12)


We will never fully understand, but the days of Easter help us precisely in this: to always return anew to the spring-like dimension of our faith. And to rekindle that fire that burned in the chests of the disciples of Emmaus, now ready to joyfully move their steps towards the world, awaiting the announcement that has changed history.