The Primate of All-Ireland has launched a specially commissioned 2016 Advent Calendar on the homepage of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ website, www.catholicbishops.ie, to coincide with the beginning of Advent today, on Sunday 27th November.
“The season of Advent marks the beginning of the Catholic year and the time of spiritual preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas,” said the Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, who is also Chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
“It is a time of waiting, conversion and hope,” he added. “Advent also prepares us for the second coming of Christ at the end of time. 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.”
Archbishop Martin continued: “This year, the beginning of our Catholic new year coincides with the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which we celebrated as a universal Church at the invitation of our Holy Father Pope Francis. Across Ireland, in parishes, schools, religious communities and places of pilgrimage, hundreds of special gatherings and events took place to mark the Jubilee Year and to emphasise its key message – that the name of God is mercy; that God’s mercy is available to all, and we are, in turn, called to be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.
“As Pope Francis prayed at the closing of the Jubilee Year in Rome, I pray that the graces of this special 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. As Pope Francis puts it: ‘God never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us … 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).
“I welcome the inclusion of content from Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) and his new Apostolic Letter Mercy and Peace in this year’s Advent Calendar. I invite everyone during the Advent season to visit and to reflect on the information provided on our online calendar, especially the themes of love in the family as well as mercy and peace.”
Archbishop Martin concluded: “As Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of our Lord, I encourage the faithful, notwithstanding our hectic schedule over the coming weeks, to make time to pray – alone and with loved ones – and by so doing to draw nearer to Christ.”
Please note that the virtual doors of the Advent Calendar will not open ahead of time – they will open on the day assigned to them and the first door will open on Sunday 27th November.
Picture: Advent, a season of joyful expectation before Christmas, begins on 27th November this year. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. (CNS photo/Lisa A. Johnston, St. Louis Review).