A Year of Dialogue Culminates in Buddhist Participation in Maryknoll Advent Celebration.

By Hans Hallundbaek

Advent is for Christians a time remembering the birth of Jesus the Christ. It is also a time anticipating the coming of the world of justice and peace announced by the Christ. The Latin roots of the word Advent means “coming” or “arrival. ”

In the Christian church, Advent is observed in the four week period preceding Christmas day (the day celebrated as the birthday of Christ). In churches throughout the western world, this Advent period is celebrated with decorations, candle lights and the singing of time-honored songs and Hymns.

Maryknoll, the Roman Catholic Mission Institute in Ossining New York, is no exception. Each year, in early December this home to a world wide network of missionaries, celebrates the arrival of the Advent season with a spectacular musical celebration, enjoyed by hundreds of residents and visitors.

The year of 1998 witnessed the emergence of a promising relationship between the Chung Yen Monastery and Maryknoll. Each represents one of the two largest world religions. With world problems increasing, such a relationship is encouraging for the emerging global age of the new millennium.

Through the year of 1998, these two religious groups dialogued on several occasions. It started when Maryknollers were invited to a joint prayer meeting for world peace at the Chung Yen Monastery in late March. In May the Buddhists were invited for a return visit to Maryknoll. When disaster struck in China, the Maryknollers came to the Great Buddha Hall in early September to be part of a seven day prayer vigil for Chinese flood victims.

On a more joyous note, the first year of relationship culminated at the recent Advent Christmas Celebration on December 4. The main chapel of the Maryknoll campus, was filled to capacity with people of faith, who had come together to celebrate the coming of Christmas.

Twelve monks and nuns from the monastery participated in the celebration. Two of them, Rev. Tar Chung and Rev. Dae Long were included in the more than fifty person choir leading the assembly in celebration and singing of traditional advent hymns, like “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” referring to the return of Christ, and “Joy to the World,” a praise to God incarnate.

The international nature of Maryknoll was highlighted in singing the traditional hymn, “Silent Night, Holy Night” (commemorating the birth of Christ), first in English and then in Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, and Korean. Finally the hymn was sung in Chinese as a solo performance by Chung Yen nun, Rev. Tar Chung. With her beautiful soprano voice filling the lofty Maryknoll chapel, she received an enthusiastic ovation. The Monastery can be proud of its contribution to this first joint Catholic, Buddhist Advent celebration at Maryknoll.

As the millennium draws near, the inter-religious dialogue which has been so successfully initiated in this past year between the Chung Yen Monastery and Maryknoll bodes well for the future. It signifies a vital cooperation between two major religious organizations towards a new world of compassion, justice and world peace envisioned by both the Buddha and Jesus Christ.

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