As Advent begins this weekend, we can turn our attention to the Christmas season, if we haven’t already. Christmas is my favorite holiday, so for me, Advent has always been a joyful time of preparing for Christmas to come. For our Maryknollers, Advent has also been a time filled with happiness and eager expectation. The Motherhouse and Seminary would be decorated for the new season, the message at Mass would turn from “ordinary time” to something more exciting, and festive songs would fill the halls. And in this time of waiting, there has always been joy in the air.
On the First Sunday of Advent in her Seasonal Conferences of 1947, Mother Mary Joseph wrote “This evening we shall light the first of four candles [of the Advent wreath] and then each successive week another, until all four are ablaze. Then we shall know that the Light of the World will shine forth… We are conscious of a sense of hope and expectation of a great joy that is coming to us…” The Sisters celebrated this joy with their Advent wreath each season, hung in the dining room and adorned with greenery.
Of course the Fathers also celebrated Advent, providing messages of peace and hope to members at Maryknoll and beyond the Center. Bishop James E. Walsh wrote to all Maryknollers in 1941, “Sometimes [the Christmas season] has come to a world of blessed peace and tranquil happiness, but more often if has come to a world of dissension and division…Yet in all these centuries of varying fortune it has always brought the same blessing to the world, the message of hope and the vision of peace, the ‘tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people…'” This spirit of joyful preparation continues at Maryknoll today. As Fr. Steven Scherrer said in one 2010 sermon, “These days of Advent are days of reserved and quiet joy, interior and hidden joy in the heard, a time of joyful and quiet moderation that renews us with a peace not of this world.”
In the spirit of all Maryknollers, we wish you a joyful Advent season and a happy Christmas to come!