By Sister Carol Curtis, OSU

Envio los cielos el rocio de lo alto y las nubes derramen la justicia: Abrase la tierra y brote el Salvador. [Is 45,8]

Heavens distill dew from on high and clouds rain down justice: Let Earth open and bud forth the Savior.

This year, the familiar Advent antiphon resonated with deeper prophetic urgency as I heard it sung in El Salvador at the site of the martyrdom of the Four Churchwomen on December 2nd, the 42nd anniversary of their death, and under the shadow of the government’s broad dragnet of arrests expedited by a protracted State of Exception [virtually martial law]. Today, as we observe International Migrants Day (December 18), the United States looks with mystified paralysis at the humanitarian crisis on its southern border.

I embraced the opportunity to join the SHARE Foundation delegation to El Salvador and Honduras as an occasion to learn more about the root causes of migration, especially violence, economic exploitation, and ecological factors.

The Roses in December delegation to El Salvador, however, was especially for me an Ursuline pilgrimage, leaning into the witness of Sister Dorothy Kazel and her companions, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, and Jean Donovan (as well as Cathy Piette who was drowned), and their solidarity with the Salvadoran people. Little could I have imagined the vigor and faith with which the people of Santiago Nonualco embraced their memory and celebrated their communion of life. The community’s procession carried us along to the Chapel for the Memorial Mass. There we mingled together in the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, then spilled back out into the open space where the women had been killed. A small memorial marks the place, but it is the overarching Tree which is considered the living witness to their violent death, having taken up their lifeblood into its own life. With a holistic sense of community surpassing our U.S. categories of enfranchisement, the Tree is protected as a National monument.

In San Salvador a park is lined with panel after panel of the Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad [Monument to Memory and Truth] inscribing the names of some 75,000 people murdered or desaparecidos [forced disappearance] over the course of the more than decade-long Salvadoran Civil War. Oscar Romero is simply one among the pueblo. There are more than six panels for 1980 alone; a final panel recaps the massacres, including the Religiosas Maryknoll [Santiago Nonualco, La Paz] and the Jesuits of the University of Central America. The people of Chalatenango beautifully preserve the vital memory of the missioners as kindred on the Day of the Dead, as well as on the anniversary of their death. It reminds me of the solemn chanting of the Martyrology at the Vigil of Christmas, culminating in the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. And yet, I am coming to realize that receiving the witness is unique for each one, a mystery of Incarnation and Passion which at different times may quietly distill like dew or rain like tears or be deeply drawn up from one’s roots.

As this Fourth Sunday of Advent repeats the antiphon of heaven and earth conspiring for justice and salvation, I look with greater vigilance and desire for the ongoing incarnation of God among us, and welcome the witness of uncircumscribed solidarity, and open with expectation to the current of communion which flows with healing, liberation, and peace. Maranatha.