By Ann Marie Foley - 24 November, 2016
Each day of Advent amounts to a period of time which allows us to journey and reflect on the joy of the Gospel.
A specially commissioned 2016 Advent Calendar has been launched on the Irish Catholic Bishops’ website. However, the virtual doors will not open until the first day of Advent on Sunday (27 November), and one door will open every day after that until Christmas.
“The season of Advent marks the beginning of the Catholic year and the time of spiritual preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. It is a time of waiting, conversion and hope. Advent also prepares us for the second coming of Christ at the end of time,” said Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
The archbishop, who launched the calendar, added: “As Christians, we must always be prepared for the coming of the Lord – ‘You must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do no not expect’ [Mt 24:37–44]. Preparation does not happen at once but over time and so each day of Advent amounts to a period of time which allows us to journey and reflect on the joy of the Gospel. Our online calendar is a helpful resource in this journey.”
This year, the beginning of Advent coincides with the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Across Ireland, in parishes, schools, religious communities and places of pilgrimage, there were hundreds of special gatherings to mark the year.
The archbishop echoed Pope Francis’s closing prayer of the Jubilee Year in Rome, that the graces of the year will continue to work in the Church and that people will feel more and more welcome in their Church.
“The door to God’s mercy never closes. There is always a second chance to turn back, to say sorry, to ask forgiveness and to make amends. Advent offers us a perfect opportunity to reflect on mercy, forgiveness, and conversion,” he said.
He quoted Pope Francis, stating: “From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends” (Misericordiae Vultus n25).
The Advent Calendar includes content from Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’) and his new Apostolic Letter, Mercy and Peace.
It also features the audio ‘Thought for the Day’, which was so popular last year, and includes contributions from bishops, priests, religious, laity, students and schoolchildren. These ‘Thought for the Day’ audio recordings will be available on the pages of the Advent Calendar as well as on podcast and on-demand Audioboom platform.
The daily content includes readings, music, and information on the saints. It also includes prayers and blessings for all occasions in Advent, such as lighting the Christmas tree or special family meals, as well as prayers and suggested actions to help those in need.
The calendar is just one initiative, and many more events and resources are available to enrich the Advent season. For example, one of the Veritas books for the season is Martina Lehane Sheehan’s new book, Waiting in Mindful Hope, which will be launched on 25 November at the Avila Carmelite Centre, Dublin, in Ennis Parish Centre on 29 November, and on 1 December at Veritas bookshop in Cork City.
The Project Messiah concert returns for the fourth year in succession, with choir members taking on the challenge of learning the Messiah in eight weeks. They will perform with an orchestra and professional soloists under the baton of Blánaid Murphy. Project Messiah includes singers from parishes in Dublin, Mullingar, Kilbeggan and Meath. Singing ability ranges from beginner to choir stalwart.
World Missions Ireland (WMI) Advent resources are free and available to download from their website, and include the Scripture Adventure Resource and templates for making an Advent wreath with children in a classroom or prayer group. WMI suggests that at the beginning of each week during Advent the appropriate candle in the Advent wreath can be lit and prayers from the resource book recited.
The Scripture Adventure contains a small piece of scripture from the Gospel of Luke each day to help children journey with the story of waiting for the birth of Jesus together. This can be photocopied and given to each child to colour.
Messiah: Saturday 26 November, Carmelite Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar St, Dublin, at 8 pm. Price €15 at the door.