Reflection for December 2023

Dec 15, 2023

As I reflect in our small Columban community of three sisters living in the heart of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, the words of the hymn, ‘Longing for light, we wait in darkness’ come to mind. We live in a situation where this longing for light is very real and where both the longing and the hope are given vibrant expression all around us.

Beginning in October with Thaningyut, the end of Buddhist lent and in November with Diwali, we participate with our neighbours from different faith communities in celebrating our belief and hope that light always overcomes darkness. Then in our Catholic community we move towards Christmas.

A number of years ago, I was teaching English in a Buddhist monastery school. The majority of the students were Buddhist monks. One day the students asked me to tell them the story of Christmas. I began to tell the story of a young girl from a small village who was visited by a heavenly messenger.

This was familiar territory for my students who are very tuned into the world of the spirit. I described how this young woman was asked to make space in her heart and mind and body for the birth of a child.

I told of the bewilderment of this simple young woman and of her question ‘how can this be?’ Then the answer: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you.’ And then of her ‘yes’, her surrender to and trust in a Mystery, a presence, a reality beyond human understanding. ‘Here am I, let it be done to me’.

I told them of the birth of Jesus in a humble dwelling place, of the heavens opening and being filled with light, of the joy and amazement of the shepherds who were the poorest and most alienated in that society and yet were the first to recognise the birth of this King of Kings.

I told of the wise people who came from the East, these men who studied the stars and who followed the star until ‘they found the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger’. Yet they recognised him and falling down they worshipped him. As I finished the story these young monks put their hands together in reverence and said this is truly a noble person and we pay respect to Him.

As I told this story I was caught up in the wonder and amazement of my listeners. The story, so familiar to me began to radiate with life and light. I began to hear with new ears and see with new eyes. My prayer is that this Christmas we may experience anew something of the wonder and radiance I saw on the faces of those young monks.

May we experience the Word who became flesh living among us now, a light shining in the darkness of our world, a light that can never be extinguished.

Sr Kathleen Geaney

Published in the December 2023 issue of the Far East magazine. Please subscribe here and support the work of Columban missionaries:

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