LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Archbishop Eamon Martin has launched an annual online Advent Calendar for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Set in the bishops’ conference online website – at https://catholicbishops.ie/adventcalendar – the calendar marks the tenth year of the seasonal resource. A door opens each day on the webpage, and viewers experience brief personal video reflections on the Advent season from lay women and men, young people and clergy.
Martin is the Archbishop of Armagh – in Northern Ireland – and Primate of All Ireland.
Welcoming this year’s Advent Calendar, he said the pre-Christmas period is often described as a journey.
“Over the next four weeks we will journey towards Christmas while reflecting on the big themes and the personalities of the Advent season. Some of the major themes of Advent are: Waiting and preparation, darkness and light, and the promise of comfort and hope,” the archbishop said.
“The Advent calendar invites each of us to make space for God in our lives every day over the next four weeks. It guides us along an Advent journey, pausing each day for a few moments to pray, reflect, and take some practical steps to enrich our experience of Christmas,” he continued.
The Irish Church leader noted the current political situation around the world, including the current increase of violence in countries across the globe.
“Our Advent journey is more significant than ever this year as it takes place against a tragic backdrop of war, terror, death and destruction in various parts of the world. Our minds are troubled and our hearts are saddened. We watch and listen to the world news, often feeling powerless to do anything except pray and hope,” Martin said.
“In particular, our thoughts, prayers, readings and carols at this time of the year turn to the Holy Land in which the Christ child was cradled. Since early October that sacred place seems to have become an unholy cauldron of division, blame and recrimination,” he said.
He gave particular attention to the current fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas, which has left thousands of people dead.
“In this atmosphere of ‘sadness and pain’, the patriarchs and other church leaders in Jerusalem recently asked that Christians in the troubled region might refrain from their usual joyful celebrations, bright lights and decorations. Instead, they encourage their priests and the faithful to focus more on the spiritual meaning of this holy season as a gesture of solidarity towards all those who have been killed, injured, bereaved, or displaced from their family homes,” the archbishop said.
“Although we are many miles from the devastation that war is causing nowadays – especially in Ukraine [which was invaded by Russia in 2022] and the Holy Land– we might consider making some small sacrifices this Advent in recognition of, and in solidarity with, our brothers and sisters who are suffering so much. Participating in the Advent calendar, and following its reflections and challenges, is one small way of doing this. We all need ways of keeping our minds turned towards Christ, the Prince of Peace, and of renewing our hearts in the ways of love, forgiveness and healing,” Marin said.
The Irish bishops’ conference emphasized Advent – from, ad-venire in Latin or “to come to” – is the season of spiritual preparation consisting of the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. It said the period is “a prayerful time for renewing our experience of waiting and longing for the Lord” and a time of preparation that directs the heart and mind to Christ’s second coming, and to the upcoming celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord at Christmas.
The conference said Advent is similar to Lent, and noted the liturgical color for Advent is purple like during Lent “since both are seasons that prepare us for great feast days.”
Martin said the Advent season “speaks loudly of hope, promise and peace and the message of the Christmas angels: Do not be afraid!”
“I thank all the contributors to the 2023 Advent calendar, and I encourage all to set out, as the Magi did, and grow closer and closer to that moment when we experience the joy of beholding Christ our Savior, born for us on Christmas Day,” he said.
“During this season we also journey inwards to prepare in our hearts, as Mary did, for the light of Christ. Over the next four weeks, let us walk together with family, friends and community so that everyone can experience the good news of this holy season, and in particular those less fortunate than ourselves,” the Irish archbishop concluded.