Category Archives: Advent Reflections

Light in the Darkness

The tragic attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan this week by the Taliban is a sad reminder that God’s peace is still so desperately needed in our world.  Noreen Sajwani, writing for Georgetown University’s campus ministry blog, describes how an attack so far away hits so close to home.  On this Advent day, let us join the victims and their families in spirit, remembering Allah, the Source of Peace, the Light in the darkness.


Attitude of Gratitude


This prayer was given to me by one of the sisters I live with, Sister Susan Chase, after she returned from a trip to Scotland earlier this year.  As I was tidying up my room recently, I found it again.  I believe it is very fitting during this Advent season and the ending of a semester as well. This prayer reminds us of what is important in our lives and how gratitude needs a place in our day to day living.     Sister Rejane Cytacki

You keep us waiting.

You the God of all time,

Want us to wait for the right time in which to discover who we are,

Where we must go,

Who will be with us, and what we must do.

So thank you . . . for the waiting time.

You keep us looking.

You, the God of all space,

Want us to look in the right and wrong places for signs of hope,

For people who are hopeless,

For visions of a better world that will appear

Among the disappointments of the world we know.

So thank you . . . for the looking time.

You keep us loving.

You, the God whose name is love,

Want us to be like you –

To love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable;

To love without jealousy or design or threat;

And most difficult of all, to love ourselves.

So thank you . . . for the loving time.

And in all this, you keep us,

Through hard questions with no easy answers;

Through failing where we hoped to succeed

And making an impact when we felt we were useless;

Through the patience and the dreams and the love of others;

And through Jesus Christ and his Spirit,

You keep us.

So thank you . . . for the keeping time,

And for now, and forever.  Amen

Written by the Iona Community, Scotland

The Advent Versions of “OMG!”

For the seven days before Christmas eve, beginning December 17th, the daily prayers of the Church include seven different exclamations to the Messiah.  These are called the “O Antiphons.”

The importance of the O Antiphons is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Praying the O Antiphons connects us with an important aspect of the Messiah’s coming.

Lets look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiahs related prophecies. (Many of these passages from Isaiah are found in the beautiful movements of George Frideric Handel’s great oratorio, Messiah.  Above is a link to the most famous of these movements: the Hallelujah Chorus).

O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. Isaiah had prophesied, The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. (11:2-3), and Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom. (28:29).

O Adonai: O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Isaiah had prophesied, But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (11:4-5); and Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us. (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: O Flower of Jesses stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. Isaiah had prophesied, But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (11:1), and on that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in Davids city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom. Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open. (22:22), and His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from Davids throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. (9:6).

O Oriens: O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Isaiah had prophesied, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown. (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. Isaiah had prophesied, For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (9:5), and He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. Isaiah had prophesied, The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

Reflection by Susan Rieke, SCL, McGilley Chair for Liberal Studies

The Christmas “Tree”


The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,… Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,…Solomon…at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah…Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations…

“Behold , the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

                Matthew 1:1-17, 1:23


I never got much from this genealogy.   But, it would have been bursting with meaning for first-century Jews.  To them, the names weren’t just names:  each name told a story and recalled important places, events, and historical periods.   Matthew strategically constructed this passage to show that the climax of Israel’s history was in Jesus.

“Genealogy” can be translated as “genesis ” or “beginning.”  The title “Son of David” linked Jesus to David and Solomon.  This recalled Israel’s glory days when God promised an everlasting dynasty to David.  Also, dividing the generations into 3 sets of 14 would recall David’s name.  The Hebrew consonants in “David” had number values:  d=4, w=6, d=4, totaling 14.  This subtly proclaimed that Jesus was the “thrice-Davidic Son of David.”

Then the genealogy turns somber.  It lists the generations of the Babylonian deportation and exile, a result of Israel sinning and breaking their covenant with God.   This period wasn’t just a painful memory to first-century Jews.  They still continued to feel the loss of their kingdom, land, and the Ark of the Covenant (God’s presence in the temple).

Then, the genealogy turns hopeful, showing that the Davidic line had NOT died out.  As “Christ” (“Anointed One”), Jesus would be a new Davidic king.  As “Jesus” (“God saves”), he would bring about the New Covenant era of forgiveness of sin.  As “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”), he would dwell among the Jews like the old Ark of the Covenant, and he would also be a blessing for the whole world.  This is what first-century Jews would have been longing for.

(Taken from Mystery of the Kingdom:  On the Gospel of Matthew and Dawn of the Messiah:  The Coming of Christ in Scripture, by Edward Sri)

Reflection by Cathy Sullivan, Applications Coordinator

Christmas in the Prison


When the Christmas season arrived I wondered how I would “celebrate” this season behind the walls of Kansas State Penitentiary (New Lansing Correctional facility). I was assigned there as a Catholic chaplain in July of 1970. I had read articles telling how some people experienced depression during this time of joy and hope. Surely prison would bring a sense of loss and isolation.

Little did I know that early in November our prison Christmas season would begin with a visit from the Salvation Army staff. With them would come colorful catalogs of age-appropriate toys and gifts. Each inmate could select two gifts (sports equipment, dolls, books, games, etc.) for each of his children. These gifts would be wrapped, tagged with names (to and from) and delivered to the prison in early December when Christmas visits began.

Inside the prison chapel, the Beacon of Hope choir practiced their carols and hymns.  Also the chapel was presented with Christmas cards from Hallmark. The selection included the “Ebony” line for families of color.

The highlight of the season came at Christmas Eve Mass. A group of Sisters of Charity were invited to come and bring a selection of candies.  Mass was celebrated with Father John Stitz and Protestant Chaplain Jim Post on the altar. After Mass the inmates served coffee and cheese snacks appropriated from the prison dining hall.

I left the walls feeling that a new “Nativity” was experienced by all of us, prisoners and guests.

Ed Simons, SCLA

Lansing, Kansas

Just Wait

Wait.  As a child, this was a painful word around Christmas.  Wait for the tree to go up. Wait for the cookies. Wait for the snow. Wait to see what I got.

Knowing what I now know about child psychology, I can rationalize my ego-centrism by saying it was perfectly natural. It was all about me.  Then one evening after dinner, I overheard my parents talking at the dinner table.  I was about eleven and was just beginning to understand the power of money.  I heard my father tell my mother that he was worried about having the money to buy all four of us the presents we wanted for Christmas.  My mother tried to ease the pain by saying she had taken on some extra drapery jobs (she had her own business) to make Christmas money.

At that moment, I realized it was not all about me.  I gathered my siblings upstairs and told them we would only ask for those things my mother could make… she could make anything, gloves, scarves, sweaters, pajamas.  And we would give to them only what we could make or offer in chores above the required.  I couldn’t wait to tell them what we wanted.  My sister said mittens, my brothers said pajamas, I said a red scarf.  We gave handmade ornaments, under-cooked cookies, free oil changes (my brother worked at a gas station and was learning the trade).

Fast forward–it was the best of all Christmases–the wait was worth it.  Years later my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said I’d love for her to knit me a Christmas sweater.  Having no picture or a pattern, my mother knitted the sweater that is pictured here.  I wear it every year.  The tradition continues with great anticipation, waiting to see the joy of giving from what we make for each other.

Reflection by Nancy King, Psychology Program Co-Director

Les pwa fe viv! Hope makes us live!

In this time of Advent, I find myself reflecting on its meaning and the hope that this season brings. Advent is the time spent when we as Christians prepare ourselves for the birth or coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. During Advent, we have the opportunity to not only wait for our Savior’s arrival, but to also actively prepare ourselves and our homes for this amazing event. December can be such a dark time of year so many individuals celebrate the season with candles and lights. How do we prepare for the season? How do we bring light and hope to those in great need? Finally, I ask myself, why is hope so important?

As a physical therapist, I often ponder how we bring hope and inspiration to those with injuries, broken bodies, changed lives, and troubled souls. How do we work with family members as well? Physical therapists help patients see new possibilities for their lives when no future is initially seen. We help prepare patients with new strategies for greater participation in their communities.

One of the most graphic memories I have of preparing patients for a new life or an Advent of a different sort, was when I first served in Haiti just after the killer earthquake of 2010. At the tent hospital in Jimaní, Dominican Republic, we worked long hours with patients from Haiti who had lost everything. Some had lost limbs, others lost bodily movement due to spinal cord injuries sustained in the earthquake, and others were dealing with multiple traumas of mind, body, and spirit. Many patients were facing the unknown.

Our job as therapists was to improve our patients’ mobility despite the external fixators patching fractured bones together or bandages covering wounds visible or not. Each patient we worked with was frightened and facing an unknown future.  As director of the international rehab team at the hospital, my rehab team moved from bed to bed working with patients building a connection of trust and a promise for a future none of us could clearly see. Yet, we had to trust – trust in goodness and the possibilities of what might occur. We did this by building what I call COMILIA. Comilia is that relationship that develops when we engage goodness in our work as educators, consultants, administrators, researchers, and everyday people. Seeking comilia happens when we engage in a community with reciprocity. Here we move beyond being strangers, visitors, guests, or helpers into the sacred space of caring, deep caring. . .

My last night in the tent hospital during the final rounds was a bittersweet time. In the morning many of my patients were to be discharged to the refugee camps on the Haitian side of the border. I was to head back to Santo Domingo and eventually back to the United States. My patients gave me a blessing and told me my suitcase would be extremely heavy when I returned home because I would be carrying home the hearts and souls of all my patients. They told me my heart would also feel heavy because they were taking a piece of my heart and soul with them. We would be eternally connected through our time together at the hospital. I had made their life brighter through our physical therapy treatments my patients told me.

That is the essence of comilia – preparing for something new and good. Building comilia is how we prepare ourselves and our communities this Advent season for the possibilities of something new and better. I believe Advent is a time we should cherish every day and not just during the designated time in the liturgical calendar. It is a time where we reflect on our God given gifts and talents. We may even reflect on what we were born to do and how we will do it as part of the body of Christ. When we take time to see the broader picture, we may even appreciate how our gifts and talents bring hope to those in need. We don’t have to be a physical therapist in a faraway country to bring hope to others. It is something we can all do anywhere. We must simply live and build comilia! The Haitians say, “Piti piti plen kay,” which means “a little light fills the whole house.” Advent is a time when we are called to bring light and hope to those in need as we wait for the birth of our Savior. It is this gift of hope and a promise for a future of new possibilities that makes us live!

Les pwa fe viv!

Reflection by Sue Klappa, PT, Ph.D., Curriculum Chair for the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program 

Fear Not!

Go up onto 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: 9-11

After reading this small passage, the line that stood out the most for me is “fear not to cry out” that the Lord is coming. This is important to me because this is a problem that I had to overcome. During the second week of classes this semester, I walked into Campus Ministry knowing that I wanted to be involved with Bible study. I would soon be asked to lead Bible study and I knew that this was important because I believed that it was my duty to spread the word of God.

So, I walked into it with my head held high and with great expectation that the Lord would lead me through. Then, a couple of days before the first Bible study I froze up. I no longer had any confidence in myself. I began to tell myself that I mess up too much to spread the word of God; I will say something that will mess everything up, and I am useless. The night before Bible study I stayed up late reading over the material because I just wanted everything to go right.

I remember walking through the doors of Maria Hall and feeling relieved. I prayed that the Lord remove every sense of fear and anxiety and, because he is a mighty God, he came through. I am not perfect, but I serve a perfect God and I believe that he will soon return; I want to be ready on the day he comes. I have decided to stop living in fear of anything because I believe God; I believe that whatever he places before me is for me. I encourage you to do the same.

Reflection by Cenyeaa Williams, Junior Business Major

Immaculate Mary

“In the sixth month, 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, favored one!  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)

Why was Mary “greatly troubled” by Gabriel’s words?

She would have been familiar with the Old Testament.  No one else had been honored by an angel with such an exalted title as “favored one” or “full of grace,” so she wouldn’t have known the expression.  The Catholic Church has interpreted this to mean Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary, at the moment of her conception, was preserved by God from original sin.  This was so that she would be an unblemished vessel, or “Ark of the Covenant,” in which to conceive and bear Jesus.

“The Lord is with you” (usually said by angels) or “I will be with you” (said by God) was used in the Old Testament before people were given a very important and difficult, if not dangerous, task.  This was said to individuals like Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and David when they were commissioned to serve God’s people.

And Mary DID receive a very important task:  She would be the mother of Jesus.  Although she probably didn’t understand at the time exactly what this would mean, she was given assurance:   She had found favor with God, and the Lord was with her.  So, Mary was able to say “yes” to her task.

Let us, like Mary, say “yes” to the task God has put before us today!

(paraphrased from Dawn of the Messiah:  The Coming of Christ in Scripture, by Edward Sri.)

Reflection by Cathy Sullivan, Applications Coordinator