To celebrate the 2023 Advent season, the Maryknoll Mission Archives invites you to count down the weeks of Advent with scripture and prayers by Maryknoll Sisters, Lay Missioners and Fathers & Brothers. Join us each week as we releflect on the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and finally Christmas. To see the theme of the week, click on the corresponding candle below. Wishing you a blessed Advent!






Hope – First Sunday of Advent, December 3

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Mark 13:33-37

The people of El Salvador carry the heavy burdens of poverty and injustice — lack of education, job opportunities, clean water and basic sanitation; food insecurity; inadequate housing; widespread violence; the sweeping raids and arrests of the current “state of exception”; and the fear, suffering, and sorrow that come with these conditions.

Jesuit Father Ignatius Ikunza, who worked for social justice in Kenya, said, “Our identity as Christians is based on whom we carry.” His words might make us think about whom we have carried in our lives, who has carried us and whom we might be called to carry.

In our community of El Zaite, we see people lifted up and carried all around us — at-risk children by parents; people who are ill by caregivers; victims of violence by devoted advocates; struggling students by dedicated teachers; people in prison by family and committed volunteers; those without enough food by generous neighbors and donors.

And every day we witness innumerable small acts of people carrying others with warm smiles, words of encouragement and kind gestures that help to lighten the load of those in need. It’s not nameless or unknown people who are being carried. It’s our friends, our neighbors, colleagues and family members. It’s us! Each of us has been carried at different times in our lives.

During Advent, Christians carry the hope and promise of Christmas in our hearts. It is the same hope and promise that Mary and Joseph carried on their journey to Bethlehem. They carried a new light for the world with confidence that God’s promises of old would be fulfilled. It is light that darkness cannot overwhelm. It is a light in each one of us — the light of Christ. I carry it, we all carry it.

As we journey toward the celebration of that light coming into the world, we have the opportunity to reflect on our own stories of being carried, to consider if there is someone whom we might carry and lay down before the Lord for help and healing, and to ponder what shining gifts we might offer to Jesus and those in need this Christmas.

Whom do we carry? An Advent reflection from El Salvador by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Bob Cunningham, 12/8/2022

Peace – Second Sunday of Advent, December 10

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;

cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Isaiah 40:3-5, 9-11

“I feel urged to use St. Paul’s words – ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man’ – what delights would abound in a community if its every soul were filled with the peace of which the angels sang on that first Christmas morn.

Certainly such joys are within our reach, and my Christmas prayer is that you may attain to them by acquiring that peace which passes all understanding.”

Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, 11/21/1938
Christmas letter to all Sisters

Joy – Third Sunday of Advent, December 17

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

 Isaiah 61:10-11

“As I prepare to celebrate my first Christmas in Kenya, I also realize that my first year in East Africa has quickly passed by. The year has been filled with struggles of illnesses, challenges of language, adjustments to new locations, painful tears of witnessing the suffering of Africans around me, and the great joys of learning new things, building new relationships, celebrating a history of 50 years of Maryknoll in East Africa, and of inner-personal growth. […] I pray a special blessing of a PEACEFUL and JOYFILLED HOLIDAY SEASON for you and your family.

I remember back to my childhood, Kermit the Frog from the Muppets used to sing a song “GREEN is BEAUTIFUL.” I always assumed that it was just a crazy and fun-loving song. Now as most folks begin to decorate their houses with Green Christmas trees, wreaths, holly, etc. back in the United States, GOD has also blessed Christmas with a BEAUTIFUL GREEN in my “desert home of Bura Tana. Over the past week or so, we have begun to receive the wonderful rains (and blessings) from heaven. It is absolutely lovely to see little patches of decoration (along with the numerous rainbows) in preparation for Christ’s Birth.

Kenya Newsletter, 12/7/1996 – Former Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Marty Roers

Love – Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

 Luke 1:26-33

God’s offer of love which calls out for a response and our trust in the love of God within the call form the bridge between what is and what is yet to be. During Advent we are asked to stand and wait on that bridge so that the promise of new life may stir our imaginations into a new response to God’s wonderful offer of love made incarnate in our lives over and over again. May this Advent be a time of transformation when our faithful, sturdy waiting is turned into the rich, warm color and texture of love realized in our everyday lives for the sake of fullness of life for all. Where there is trust, God does not disappoint! Come Emmanuel! We are waiting on tip-toes of trust.”

Sr. Ann Hayden, M.M.
Advent: A Time to Wait, 12/3/2009

Christmas – December 25th

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14

Christmas Eve in Tanzania. Maryknoll’s city church in Dar Es Salaam is packed to overflowing. Outside hundreds more sit on the sand and grass. The lively beat of drums, kayambas and other percussion instruments accompany the last song of Christmas Mass, joyfully announcing, “Mwokozi amezaliwa…Mungu yu nasi…Mungu yupo, The Savior is born…God is among us…God is here.”

The night explodes with the glorious noise of an African holiday. People pour from the church to join those outside, dancing into the streets with the good news of the Lord coming to us, beginning a long night of laughter, song and excited exchanges of greetings and blessings. Sparkling eyes and gorgeous smiles sustain that happy feeling from morning’s first light till sunset. In my experience, however, the sun never really sets on an African Christmas because belief in God’s presence among us is more than a seasonal celebration or spiritual concept for Africans; it forms the warp and woof of their daily lives. Every day you hear someone say, “Mungu yupo.” Literally it means “God is here,” but when said in response to troubles, it means, “God will help,” or “God won’t let you down; God will work things out.”

Missioners in Africa want people in the United States to meet the people with whom they work. Our purpose is not just to have you help Africans solve problems but, more important, to share their joy of life. The best way would be to celebrate a Christmas holiday in Tanzania. Santa Claus will not come. No fruitcake on the table and no presents around the tree. Just a guarantee that you will experience God with an excitement rivaling that of the shepherds on the first Christmas morn, and with a warmth of love that brings heaven and earth together, melting racial barriers and leading to a grand Christmas toast:

Mungu yupo. Here’s to you and yours!

Fr. Donald Doherty, M.M.
Maryknoll Magazine, December 1986, p. 7