Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

HawksmoorCollage

Nicholas Hawksmoor is one of those strange figures of British history who have remained buried at the bottom, not much recognition, not famous, nobody seems to care much. He should be mentioned in the same breath as Newton, Blake, Shakespeare, or Dickens. He should be one of those we mention without needing to use his first name or his profession. So why is he little known outside the fields of Baroque architecture and London history?

 English Baroque never became as fashionable as its continental counterparts, I believe this is a principle reason why Hawksmoor never quite made it among those lofty names. He has also been overshadowed in notoriety and in the legacy of his work by his master – Sir Christopher Wren.

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Hawksmoor was ‘spotted’ by Sir Christopher Wren. He subsequently worked for Wren as a clerk in the last 20 years of the 18th century. This is both a blessing and a curse for Hawksmoor because much of his work has been overshadowed by the figure of Wren. Wren’s shadow is cast from the huge cupola of St Paul’s over the last 300 years of British Architecture. This period was also characterised by the rebuilding of London after the great fire. I said blessed because Wren is undoubtedly a genius of this period. The job of an architect was not really conceived before Wren. The idea of planning construction sites and project managing was not really a professional concern, it was left to the skilled labourers and masons. Working with Wren during this time must have given Hawksmoor many opportunities which allowed him to develop and exploit his skills. Hawksmoor worked with Wren on the Chelsea Hospital, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Hospital. Wren was also surveyor general. It’s easy to see how Hawksmoor’s influence can be overshadowed by the celebrity of Wren, but many argue that some of the features and developments of Wren’s projects owe much to Hawksmoor. Imagine the modern celebrity chefs who lend their names to famous restaurants only to have another more than competent chef actually cook the meals. I think there is a distinct possibility that their close professional relationship created a level of trust whereby Hawksmoor could carry out the projects of Wren’s ‘brand’ without much interference. Wren also had many other concerns at that time so I think it’s safe to assume that not every Wren project was completed in its entirety by Wren

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By 1700, Hawksmoor was a major architectural force with his own style; his own baroque style.  I say his own Baroque style consciously, because unlike many architects of that time Hawksmoor never completed the almost obligatory Grand Tour. He did not see the famous sights first-hand, and had to rely on pictures and engravings. The lack of first-hand experiences may have hindered his style, but I choose to believe that it prevented cheap mimicry and afforded him a rare objective approach when studying ancient monuments and edifices. Anyone who has seen his churches can see that he paid close attention to the monuments of ancient Rome and even Greek, Egyptian, and Hebrew works. How many churches in England have a pyramid in their graveyards? His grand tour was carried out in the library where he travelled effortlessly from Medieval Europe to Ancient Egypt in the space of a few pages. He was free from the constraints and prejudice of direct contact and instead had to rely more on the free-flowing artistic imagination to complete his works.

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This continuity of history, be it Christian, pagan or anything else, is explored in the baffling yet brilliant book ‘Hawksmoor’ by Peter Ackroyd. I read the book after visiting his churches in London. The narrative switches between the slightly mundane modern murder investigations to the initial drawing board of the architect/mason. Many themes are explored which you can see clearly in the fabric of the unusual churches. The main theme being the relentless rationality of Wren compared to NIcholas Dyer’s satanic mysticism.  I won’t go into too many details about the book here because I want to talk about my journey through the architecture. However, the book provides an unbelievable analysis of religious architecture in relation to the history of belief itself. The book really helped to explain the continuity of history in the church both physical and religious. Some of the prose adds another layer of meaning to most of the structures built by Hawksmoor. The book has also left a cult of the occult. The belief is that the pattern of the churches relates to some diabolical pentagram. I cannot confirm this but what I will say is that there is an otherworldly quality of the churches. Each building seems to exist on a separate timeline than our Judeo-Christian heritage. In many ways the churches seem a little dislocated from their physical surroundings too. Too grand to sit between  the simple dwellings of East London, and far too mysterious too be nestled between the large Victorian Banks and Institutions of Central London. To the untrained eye they may look the same in colour and texture as their neighbouring buildings, but on closer inspection they bear little resemblance to the safe classical buildings we commonly see. I wondered why Hawksmoor had so many churches to his name so long after the great fire. I found my answer when I visited  Christchurch in Spitalfields.

In 1711, parliament passed the following:

Act for the building of Fifty New Churches in the Cities of London and Westminster or the Suburbs thereof.

The act was passed for various political reasons, but it was supported by Queen Ann as a way of providing a pastoral guidance for the godless masses, especially in the East. London at this time was turning into a huge metropolis and the infrastructure had not caught up with the demands of the growing population. There was also a concern about the growing number of non conformist meeting houses, especially in the Spitalfields area which contained large numbers of Huguenots . The creation of large churches was a way to erect towering steeples to watch over the less imposing meeting houses. Whatever the reasoning, it was a serious commission, a commission which included Christopher Wren, John Vanburgh, Thomas Archer and a number of churchmen. Hawksmoor served as one of its surveyors and remained  until the commission ran out of enthusiasm and money in 1733. The declining will for the 50 churches meant that only twelve churches were actually completed. I believe they ran out of money because they were far more grandiose than originally intended. Some of the churches were collaborations but six of the churches were designed or rebuilt by Hawksmoor:

Christ Church, Spitalfields Hawksmoor 1714-29

St Alfege Church, Greenwich Hawksmoor 1712-18 (rebuilt)

St Anne’s Limehouse Hawksmoor 1714-30

St George’s, Bloomsbury Hawksmoor 1716-31

St George in the East Hawksmoor 1714-29

St Mary Woolnoth Hawksmoor 1716-24 (rebuilt)

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I spent the best part of a day travelling across London to look at the churches. Unfortunately St. Georges in the East was closed and as I was in the East I failed to visit Bloomsbury, this is strange because I have been in that area many times. If you live in London, or if you are spending a reasonable amount of time there I highly recommend setting aside a full day to visit the churches. I started in Spitalfields and headed East. Actually, I forgot my map and notes but a leaflet from Christchurch was enough to get me going to Limehouse and beyond. I will not label all the pictures or describe how to get there, I believe it should be a personal journey. If you need a guide then consider following the gruesome murders in Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor. Good luck!

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Arequipa, Peru is a beautiful place with old colonial squares and those traditional Spanish era churches. The main reason I visited Arequipa was to see Juanita the ‘ice mummy’, however, I also stumbled upon the serene and beautiful Santa Catalina Monastery. This monastery is a monastery of nuns of the Dominican Order. I always thought convents were for nuns and monasteries were for monks,  but what do I know? It was founded by Maria de Guzman  and built in 1579, it was enlarged in following century. The rather large monastery takes up a sizeable part of the older part of Arequipa and there are still some nuns living in the closed off part; tourists can visit the rest.peru032

This city is no sprawling metropolis compared to Santiago de Chile or Buenos Aires, but it’s busy enough in that typically Latin way with taxis beeping their horns and people squabbling loudly. The mildly chaotic atmosphere outside is hard to detect once you get inside the peaceful cloisters of Santa Catalina. There are some interesting exhibits on life in yesteryear, but by far the best thing to do is wander around the peaceful maze and get lost among the painted walls and flowers. I even found some guinea pigs nibbling on salad in one of the quieter chambers. If you know anything about Peru then you can imagine what will happen to those little creatures.

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Santa Catalina is built in the Mudejar style. This is the style adopted by the Moors who remained in Iberia after the Christians took it back. It’s not as obviously Moorish as some of the buildings you would find in Andalusia, but there is more than an echo to the styles of the Al-Andalus Moors. The tiles, brightly painted walls, and vaulted ceilings would seem familiar to anyone who has seen the old Moorish buildings. This particular building is very simple and sits perfectly into the surrounding streets of Arequipa. It reminds me of the places you would see on Spaghetti Westerns with peaceful locals being harangued by angry gunmen.

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I find that most of the colonial Spanish, or Iberian architecture I have seen in South America fits seamlessly into its surroundings. I think this is a combination of parts of Iberia having similar light and climate, and because the buildings have had time to age. Looking at the history of European exploration, the Spanish and Portuguese have been in America a long time. The reason I talk about this is because I have often found Anglo-Saxon colonial styles to be completely out-of-place, especially in hotter climes.

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In the days before things were recorded, when China was in its infancy, various tribes wandered the Korean peninsula. These tribes are related in customs and traditions to Manchuria and the Russian Far East.  There was no Korea or any form of an organised political entity representing such people. As with many tribes found in Siberia, North America and even Northern Finland, they were a shamanistic people who worshipped nature and animals. Two of the most striking and important totemic animals are the tiger and the bear. These two animals (possibly representing two different tribes) prayed to a deity called Hwanung. Hwanung was a kind of prince of the heaven, son of the great Hwanin. The two animals wished to become human but rather than just make them human, Hwanung wanted to test their resolve, so he gave them 20 cloves of garlic and some mugwort. They had to survive off these foods in a cave for 100 days. The lack of sunlight and other foods were too much for the tiger, he gave up after twenty days and left the cave. The bear stayed for the duration and was rewarded by being transformed into a  woman called ‘Ungnyeo’. She became lonely and needed company so Hwanung  married her and  she gave birth to a son, who was named Dangun Wanggeom.

Dangun is the father of the first Korean nation called Gojoseon. ‘Go’ means ancient as there is another dynasty called Joseon which occurred later. Like most mythology there is usually some history hiding somewhere in the mystical tales. The totemic animals may represent tribes who were included or excluded in this federation.  The Chinese Emperor Yao may have been in power at some point during Dangun’s reign, if this is the case then we are looking at  2357 BC-2256 BC. Dangun is certainly important in the history of Korea, even the years were named after him before the 60s. Dangi (단기) began in 2333 BC and Dangun’s foundation of Korea is celebrated, or perhaps remembered on October 3rd on National Foundation Day(개천절) or “Festival of the Opening of Heaven”.

Like rulers the World over, Dangun was probably deified to prevent any challenge to his authority. If any of this sounds like nonsense then I ask you to take a closer look at other mythical figures or creation myths. Intertwining the foundations of nations in myth is common to most cultures and it allows pre historical  peoples to make sense of ‘history’ using narratives they understand. It also doesn’t do any harm to the status of the élite if they come from sacred beginnings . If you consider any of this story primitive and lacking in  facts then here are some more to consider:

Rome: founded by twin babies Romulus and Remus who were saved by a river, suckled by a she-wolf and fed by a woodpecker.

Britain: founded by Brutus of Troy (son of Aeneas) who sailed there after a dream and had to avoid sirens then defeat giants before naming Britain after himself.

Everyone: God got bored and made Adam, then he used Adam’s rib to make a woman…..

Ever since I learnt about this myth I was keen to visit the sacred mountain where Dangun has an altar to his name. The place in question is on Taebaeksan 태백산. Unlike most mountains the top is completely barren and devoid of trees. There is a large alter inside a stone built structure. After a 2 hour hike I was rewarded with one of the calmest and most beautiful places in Korea. People ascend this mountain on New Year’s day to see the sunrise, I can see why. I stopped of at a buddhist temple for some water and then another short hike got me to the top. It was an extremely hot day and I felt like I could see the whole world from this mountain top. I hope to return some day to see the ceremony carried out  by the Shaman priests.

 The best place to start the hike up to the altar is Danggol (당골). Here are the times from the bus station(터미날) in Taebaek and back again from the Dangol carpark. It takes about 25 minutes to get to Danggol carpark and you can get food and drinks there as well as information from the Provincial park office. The hike to the altar and back takes around 4 hours.

Taebaek is best reached from Dong Seoul by bus and takes about 3h30.

Taebaek also has a train station connecting it with Gangneung and Seoul Cheongnyangni 4h15.

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=791747

http://tour.taebaek.go.kr/site/en/sub4/sub4_3_1.jsp

One of the stranger aspects of teaching and living in Korea is the possibility of giving new students their ‘English’ name. I use inverted commas because of the context of this post.
The naming process is new to me, as I have mentioned previously about 99.9% of Korean students take on a ‘Western’ name for English classes. Some Koreans also take a ‘Christian’ name at their Church of choice. Obviously there were no Saint Ji-sungs or Paul’s letter to the Kims, so it makes sense to have a biblical name. I have often wondered at the logic of how the names come about. I have heard stories about people being reminded of friends back home, favourite football players, movie stars. It seems like some people just write a random 3 names on the board and ask the students to choose . When I got my first new class, by this I mean 1st Grade Elementary, I was genuinely concerned about the weight of a multi (secular) Christening. How would I choose the names? What if they don’t like their names? They could be stuck with this name forever? What if their parents know a serial killer with the same name, or some dark family mystery? A James or a John could be a bent priest, a drunk G.I or a family pet with rabies.
                                Names carry so much meaning that I was confounded when my Korean co-teacher told me I would need to name some people. In the end, after asking other teachers, I approached it like this: what names do I not like? The answer being, I do not like modern trendy names. This can often mean ‘American’ names or names that would get you battered in a playground throughout England. Due to pluralistic nature and cultural melting pot of North America, many names float around without any deep analysis. However, names in the UK can often be a bit too traditional and rely upon saints, disciples and kings. Any other names seem to show a disregard for Western society and the traditions of the Church. I guess I wanted to walk the line between the stifled tradition of my home and the more esoteric American names. Names from the Judeo-Christian tradition are fine –  Michael, Isaac, Solomon, Joseph. Anglo-Norman names are also fine in my book: Robert, Richard, William, Stephen etc. If you are wondering, nobody in England had names like this before 1066. When I say I don’t like American style  names, I mean to say the names which carry no meaning and make no sense on the basic logic of naming traditions. The following is a small selection:
Chip (type of potato)
Randy (a state of sexual excitement)
Chad (a poor country in Central Africa)
Butch (isn’t the Sundance kid dead?)
Jesse ( slightly weak or soft)
Chuck (throw casually or Australian chicken)
Buck (a dollar)
Krystal (what the maze or the ball?)
Dustin (I do it every Sunday after I finish the hoovering)
My stance, although slightly xenophobic, is in the best wishes of the students and the future of the Korean nation. I simply thought if they ever go to the UK, Ireland or perhaps even…Australia, then why not choose a name which won’t be a cause for bullying or hysterics. After all, they could have this name for the rest of their lives. I could be responsible for naming a future football star or president. By complete chance my first naming occasion coincided with when I found my Kings and Queens of Britain cards. This is a deck of cards which has a picture of every monarch since William the Conqueror, and some information on the back. I was a bit coy about this but the co teacher and another American teacher discovered that I was using the cards to choose names. I think they discovered this when someone said to me ‘You have another new student, he has no name.’ ‘Hold on, I’ll just get my cards’.  Moments later I had a young Korean flicking through past monarchs, he made a very quick decision and liked the look of a rather masculine warrior on horseback brandishing a sword. This young student is now called Richard (as in the lion-heart). He likes his name and the person he’s named after. After several days I had a regal looking young Victoria, an elegant Elizabeth (since shortened to Ellie), a studious Edward (the first), a Charlie, a James and an Anne. After exhausting the list of Monarchs I have also used American Presidents, TV show characters; currently I have a huge list printed out which is all English (Anglo-Saxon) names. I usually find the approximate first letter of a Korean given name then give a choice of all the names with that letter. This printout is from an internet site and carries the meaning of each name. The reason I chose Anglo Saxon was because that’s where English comes from so why not give a context. Also, I wondered which names would have floated around before the Normans arrived.
                                             I am not really a patriot or a monarchist but I do think that some sense of tradition should be kept. Working with Koreans, Americans and Canadians has made me realise that people generally don’t care about Britain, England or English for that matter. The English are in a strange situation because we were so dominant but now we are becoming an irrelevance on the edge of an irrelevant continent. This is especially true when you live in East Asia. A place where U.S troops have been posted since the 50’s and where it’s easier to learn English in the Philippines or Australia than the UK. Coming from a previously dominant but now irrelevant nation means that my small political protests and cultural pointers fall on deaf ears. Englishness is simply not important enough for others to worry about, but Englishness is not exotic enough to be curious about. When I protested about being called a ‘Brit’ it was met with a disregard for my utter pettiness. This basic human right of being referred to by the correct adjective based on your state of origin seems to be a weighty issue if you are an Ulster man, Irishman, Basque, Catalan, Bosniak, Kosovan or First Nation, Inuit, African-American, Cherokee… I believe every group, people, nation or ethnicity should have the right to choose how they are referred to by others. Even if this means changing the word for your group, like African-American or First Nation. I may be from Britain but I speak English, my football team is England, my cricket team is England and I follow the English Premier League. I guess I will just correct people until I return to… er…Britain. The worst thing is that other ‘Brits’ have asked me if it really matters. I usually tell people that wanting to be called English is as much about being English as it is about the Welsh being Welsh and the Scots being Scottish; they are other places with other peoples and other traditions. Bring on devolution. 
                                              This trivial stuff was in the back of my head as I took my new classes. I already knew many students , but many faces were new and they didn’t know me. I decided to have a basic Q and A session. When I say basic I mean basic, where do you think I am from? After naming nearly every nation in the World I asked them if they wanted a clue. Pointing to the badge on a girl’s coat which read “British Culture” above a Union Jack, they still had trouble. I asked the wearer of said garment, what flag are you wearing? She didn’t know. After crying for 5 minutes I told them I’m from England. When they looked and read the coat they said “No Englandu, Britaini” “Same thing.” I said, crying again. I have since noticed that 4 other students were either wearing British flags or had British flags on pencil cases, there are some Italian flags too! It’s very post modern that a nation who planted flags in deserts, jungles and bogs all round the World can now conquer the World without trying or without their ‘subjects’ knowing. The British flag has been added to the list of signs, icons and images with absolutely no meaning whatsoever. This same list includes Che Guevara, Brazil, U.S, anything Cuban, meaningless Chinese tattoos and about a gazillion American Sports Franchises. The only symbol you would think might escape the free use of signs and signifiers is the Nazi Swastika, the Swastika in its Buddhist use is in many places here though, this I think is OK because it pre dates the Third Reich. I have since made a point of reminding students and sometimes other adults about the origin of names, designs, logos, and anything else that seems important. Non English speakers often choose to wear slogan t-shirts with absolutely no regard for the meaning of the words. I once saw a typically olive-skinned Italian girl with jet black hair sporting a t-shirt saying ‘Blondes have more fun.’ I asked ‘E vero?’ (is it true?) She just looked at me blankly. In one of my super shy and impossibly quiet classes a girl once walked in with a t-shirt declaring TALK, TALK, TALK in bold black letters. I chuckled instantly and the irony was not lost on the student in question as she hid her t-shirt from the silence.

“The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.” – “On Christmas,” Generally Speaking G.K Chesterton

 

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Many people have asked me about Christmas in Korea, and also about religion. I can talk about Christmas but the religion question I will leave for later, it’s too complicated and I don’t fully understand it myself yet. However, I can say that about 20 to 30 percent of Koreans are Christian, usually Presbyterian. I live in the city were the first Catholic Martyrs were executed, as a result there is a small but unique and impressive Cathedral and a larger Catholic community than other places in Korea.

 

I woke up feeling pretty sprightly on Christmas morn, it was just before 8 when I got my breakfast and checked on Cricket news. Unfortunately my Internet was being fickle and didn’t want me to know about how England would destroy the Baggy Greens in Melbourne, I eventually gave up and looked out of the window to gage the weather. It was bright and sunny with that nice crisp freshness you get here. I figured that my Internet breaking down was an omen to venture into Jeonju and see what happens at Christmas. I was a bit worried that everywhere would be dead as it is a public holiday, it was definitely quieter than usual on the roads but most shops seemed to be open and people were milling about like normal. I cut through one of the neighbourhoods to avoid waiting at the numerous traffic lights on the main road. It’s always funny going through the blue collar type neighbourhoods because I always catch people by surprise, they don’t expect to see Westerners in such places. I suppose if you mostly get taxis and buses then you may miss some of the smaller neighbourhoods in between the main streets. These places seemed a little strange and intimidating at first but as I have ventured into them I feel more at home on each visit. I descended the hill and instead of carrying on into the down town area like usual, I took a left and headed for the traditional area of Jeonju, this place is called the Hanok Village as the traditional type of architecture is the Hanok house.

 

Hanoks are perhaps what you would expect from East Asia, small solid structures with sloping roofs and elaborate tiles which protrude from the corners, think village in Last Samurai or royal chambers in Crouching Tiger and you’re nearly there. In the Western imagination all Oriental people live in places like this, crouching down eating rice and practising ancient Martial Arts. In reality most people, at least in Korea live in High Rise apartment complexes. Although the Hanok village is a wonderful place with many quaint touristy things to do, I have already seen the place and my detour was not for tourism. The reason I chose to go through this area was to visit the Cathedral, Jeondong Catholic Cathedral to give it it’s full name. My intention was simply to nip in and out to soak up the Christmas spirit and remember that this festival does have a reason other than buying things and over eating. I am the kind of person who would simply ignore Christmas if I was an atheist. I celebrate Christmas in the same way I don’t celebrate Eid or Rosh Hashana, pretty logical, pretty simple. For this simple reason I felt it necessary to visit the church if only for 5 minutes or so; this was not to be the case.

 

 

 

I was sitting outside the Cathedral to see whether or not it might be wiser to wait for the mass to finish, it was about 11 ‘o clock at the time. I noticed that the car park was full and I heard some quite angelic singing from within. Some of the tourists were going in and out with their cameras so with some trepidation I decided to go in, I wasn’t intending on staying for very long because I cannot speak Korean so the mass would be lost on me. As I got into the church I shuffled around at the back unable to get a clear view of proceedings because there were tourists jostling about. For some reason, perhaps my Roman face or the halo round my head, a nun homed in on me and grabbed me (in the nicest possible way), in the language of gesturing  I understood that she wanted to ascertain whether I wanted a seat in the stalls. Caught up in the moment and not wanting to run away from the kindly nun I let her lead me about halfway down the aisle on the left and she shuffled some old lady further down and gave me a place behind a rather solid looking column. After a pause and a deep breath I settled into my seat and tried to correlate the responses and Amens with my memories of Church. I realised that we were leading up to the readings. I think that this experience was my first ‘culture shock’, this is ironic in the extreme as I am more familiar with the Catholic Church than anything else in my Korean surroundings. I think it was this very familiarity which made things appear so strange. The clothes, intonation of the priest, stations of the cross, hymns and countless other things were familiar enough to give me a heavy case of déjà vu but these familiar things were simply a veneer over something completely alien. As I looked around I realised that there were only 4 other ‘Westerners’, a family actually. Everybody else in the church was Korean. About 99% of the women were wearing the white lace headscarf, I have seen this a couple of times in Italy, but on this occasion it was pretty much every woman in the church. I had a look for evidence about why women should cover their heads and men should remove hats, I found this:

 

1 Corinthians 11:1-17:
Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head: because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man [c.f. Genesis 2-3]. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels. But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church of God [i.e., if anyone want to complain about this, we have no other way of doing things, this is our practice; all the churches believe the same way]. Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together, not for the better, but for the worse.

 

 

That clears it up for me.

I was sitting in an area of mostly older woman and I felt conspicuously tall. In general Koreans are not particularly short in stature, I believe they may be on average the tallest nation in Asia, but I think the older generation may be shorter on account of diet and living conditions. In their youth Korea was a developing nation and the hardship of war and famine played its part on diet and nutrition. It’s only the last 20 years that have seen Korea progress steadily through the quality of life index and thus have the money to afford a high protein diet .

 

The mass itself was starting to feel more familiar and most things seemed the same, the biggest shock came when the priest offered the sign of peace, I could have worked out that they may bow instead of shaking hands but it caught me off-guard. I did a full 360 degrees round of bowing until a woman in the next row did a double check and upon realising I wasn’t Korean she grabbed my hand and gave me an extremely sincere handshake and smile. The only other strange thing was the people giving out the Eucharist wore white gloves like traffic police. Upon receiving the holy wafer each member of the congregation bows instead of making the sign of the cross. There was a small presentation at the end for some reason, a few medals were given out and then as things drew to a close the headscarf went into pockets and people started leaving. When I got back outside the kindly nun who had ushered me into the service saw me readying myself to leave but she quickly got me by the elbow and took me to where they were serving tea. I had some tea with her and she asked me a couple of questions, her English was good enough for basic questioning, this is rare as older Koreans don’t usually speak any English. I suppose with Catholicism in an Eastern country, the door opens up many other aspects of Western Civilisation, such as speaking English. The whole experience was very positive and I will always remember my Christmas in Korea.