The written character
The Chinese written symbol of the rat comes from the ancient pictogram of this animal” the figure of the head, whiskers, feet and tail can be seen.
I would like to share my thoughts on the characteristics often associated with the rat and what we can learn from them.
Symbolic meaning of the special characteristics of the rat
The rat is disliked by many, if not all. Of course, some keep them as pets! The rat steals and stores (hoards) for rainy days. The ‘vermin’ is considered to be mean and selfish.
We must not be mean and selfish but rather have a brotherly love and concern for others like Christ. Then, we will have many friends and can spread joy and love to all we come into contact with. Give with a generous heart and gifts and God will pour abundantly into your lap.
· Fearful and timid
The rat is easily frightened and apprehensive for fear of losing its life by making false step. Hence, it operates by night, to be on the safe side.
We too need to be careful and alert against the devil’s evil ways to make us fall and lose our sanctifying grace. Let us not be fearful and anxious but trust in God and his Divine Power to overcome the Devil and our inherent weaknesses.
Instead of being timid, we should be empowered by the Holy Spirit and be courageous in professing our faith and in the performance of our duty towards God and our neighbour.
· Industrious, careful, storing for rainy days
Operating at night, the rat works very hard to have extra for leaner days. It knows how to store up food for hard times. It comes, to sometimes, ‘hoarding’ at the expense of others.
Let us be hardworking in our duty to God, to our neighbour, to our own family, to the Church.
Let us remember the less fortunate who work so hard to get so little in return to feed their families.
Let us remember the industrial workers in factories, the poor estate workers who live from hand to mouth and the slaves in the world, where injustice has caused them so much suffering. They work like rats but they have a living, not becoming even for rats.
We are all children of our Loving Father. Let us treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us treat others’ children as our own children.
May employers, especially Christian employers, societies and nations show love and consideration for their employees, being more just and more considerate granting them housing, good social amenities, medical care, recreational facilities for a healthier life and good and decent wages and religious opportunities to go to Church to pray to their God.
In many other countries, at the end of each year (when business is good) bonuses or ang pows are given to employees with the spirit of goodwill and loving concern. May God bless them abundantly for such kindness and love.
The poorer ones will, at least, be able to store up a bit for hard days, like our friend, the rat.
As diet (food)
In Canton, the boat people (**) especially consumed, the dried meat offered to sale. Here is a case of ‘one man’s poison is another person’s meat’. Those who eat it must find it delicious and nourishing. For those who do not dream of touching it, there is nothing more to say, on this subject!
Good News for bald-heads! Please excuse me for such a term, applied to some. One comfort! There are artificial wigs for one to have hair planted on their heads. The dry meat is good medicine for restoring hair!
Thinking of losing hair and restoring hair to heads, reminds us that if we do lose our sanctifying grace by sin, we should at once turn to Christ, our Restorer and beg him for mercy and pardon so that we are fully restored to spiritual pristine health.
As carrier of disease: plague
The rat is a carrier of a parasite. It serves as a host for germs which cause bubonic plague and pneumonic plague. So much devastation was caused in Northern China by this germ.
The real plague of our life is sin and persevering in sin. The real enemy for the rat is the cat. Our real enemy is the devil plus the world of evil and our weak human flesh that lead us to sin. Let us turn to God for cure of our sin and be snatched away from the triple enemies of our soul, like the rat shuns the cat, its most formidable enemy.
Tradition and belief
Transformation of rat into quail
The transformation of the rat into quail is an ancient belie of the Chinese (a superstitious belief).
It is believed that the rat will turn into a quail (bird) in winter, and quails into rats in the 8th month of the year. The actual transformation was recorded in the Imperial Almanac.
The Lord Jesus Christ sent by the Father to become man to save us with love, taught us the way to Heaven, died and rose from the dead and transforms us into sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. What a great gift! Indeed! What a wonderful gift. “Ye, sons and daughters! Praise the Lord! Thank the Lord for such a special and wonderful gift!”
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gift of your creature rat, which you proclaim as very good.
You teach us in this New Year of the rat, not to be selfish, fearful and timid, but courageous in the performance of our duty to you and to our neighbour. You teach us, through the rat’s sterling qualities to be awake, careful, generous and industrious in our undertakings. You teach us to turn to your mercy and help, in times of temptations, trials and tribulations of life. You are the Restorer of our Spiritual health and you have transformed us into sons and daughters of yours. Thank you very, very much for all these and thank you for this wonderful Year of the Rat.
May the Good Lord grant success to our work in this New Year and make us prosper in all our undertakings.
May the Good Lord bless and protect you in this New Year of the Rat!
Happy Chinese New Year!
Fr Stephen Chin