When Sr. Ave Clark was a special education teacher, her students made her an Advent wreath. Only it wasn’t round like the store-bought ones. It was noticeably crooked. Sr. Ave still uses that wreath all these years later. Why? Because, as one student told her, “It’s not perfect, but it sure was made with love.”
In her latest book “Advent ~~ Christmas: A Pilgrimage of Light,” Sr. Ave looks at ways that each of us, imperfect as we are, can help the light of God’s love be born again in our hearts during the four weeks of Advent. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, she noted that the candles on our Advent wreaths represent hope, peace, joy, love, and, ultimately, Jesus: “Make time each day to take that pause and to feel the light within so that we [can] carry it better into the world.”
Taking a pause might seem difficult in a season of shopping and parties, but Sr. Ave sees opportunities for stillness everywhere. She said, “You can be still at a red light in the car … Just say, ‘Lord, thank you for this moment.’ Stillness can happen in a shopping market, when you’re waiting on line. Stillness can happen at home when you carve out 10 to 15 minutes. But stillness isn’t just sitting in a chair. It can be taking a walk, looking out your window. It could also be listening to somebody on the phone telling you some good news — or some news they’re asking for prayer [for]. Stillness comes in a variety of ways.”
Sr. Ave relishes the moments when God shows up in unexpected people and circumstances. She also admits that seeing God in times of darkness takes effort. That was the case when her car was hit by a runaway train 20 years ago, and she endured a year of recovery and rehabilitation. She reflected, “Do I wish it didn’t happen? Yes. But it brought different lights into my life: of understanding pain and having to adapt your life in a way you never thought you would … I said, ‘I wonder what God wants me to learn along this way?’ I remember my first Christmas after that accident, not being able to go to shops. I said, ‘You know what? A phone call to somebody means a lot. A little note means a lot.’ Maybe the best gift we could give each other is that light of caring: the kind word, the extra listening, the forgiving, too.”
Sr. Ave has a special place in her heart for those who are infirm or homebound, especially her fellow Dominican sisters, several of them are now in their 90s and 100s, living in Amityville, New York. “They used to be principals, nurses, college teachers, religious ed,” she explained. “Now, they’re sitting in their rooms.” After receiving “Advent ~~ Christmas: A Pilgrimage of Light,” the sisters were taken by a quote on the back cover: “How will you be a Christ-bearer of the holy lights of Advent ~~ Christmas time?” They decided to read the book as a group, reflect on its questions and share the answers in prayer. In other words, even though they aren’t physically active, they remain spiritually active.
Sr. Ave observed, “My Dominican sisters are the light of love … Christ took on humanity so that we would know God’s love. So, we have to take on each other’s humanity, the glory of it, and sometimes the frailty of it … God holds up each person’s humanity, and that’s the wonderful gift of the baby in the manger.”
Rossi is the Director of Communications for The Christophers. For free copies of the Christopher News Note PEACE: THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or email .
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