Seeking light amid the darkness this Advent
The first virtual door of an online Advent calendar will open on Sunday
THE Catholic Church's online Advent calendar has become something of a seasonal tradition, with the interactive resource now in its eighth year.
The calendar will go live at catholicbishops.ie this Sunday, November 28, to mark the start of the Advent season.
Each day a new virtual 'door' can be accessed, behind which can be found resources for parish, school and family.
Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said the content was aimed at "assisting people of all ages to pray and reflect on how best we can keep Christ at the centre of our Christmas preparations during this special liturgical season".
Popular features on the calendar include the audio 'thought for the day', as well as videos and words of hope and consolation from Pope Francis.
There are also suggestions to make Christmas more environmentally sustainable "so as to care for our common home".
"After another difficult year of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, the season of Advent arrives and offers us a new beginning and a promise of hope for better times," said Dr Martin.
"The first Sunday of Advent is actually the Christian Church's New Year's Day."
Dr Martin said that "perhaps more than ever", this year "we need ideas and inspiration to help us delve deeper, to find that glimmer of light, that note of joy, that promise of consolation".
"I am very conscious that in troubled parts of the world the message of Christian 'peace and goodwill to all' needs to be heard above the noise of war, the cries of the poor and the agony of the displaced and oppressed," he said.
The digital Advent calendar offers ideas, he said, "to help us spiritually prepare for our Lord's coming at Christmas so that we are more aware of the suffering of our brothers and sisters throughout the world and of the things that we ourselves can easily take for granted".
"Every day of our lives presents a moment for change and conversion and a reminder to look out for the presence of the suffering Christ in the sick, the poor and the stranger," said Dr Martin.
Clicking on a virtual door and taking just five minutes for reflection was an opportunity "to find moments of peace and to rediscover the true meaning of Advent and Christmas", he said.
"Since the outbreak of the pandemic the people of Ireland have endured testing times with courage, resilience, and compassion," said Archbishop Martin.
"Individuals and communities have made great sacrifices for the protection of life, health and for the common good.
"Many Christians have been reaching out in generous service and support for their neighbours, the lonely, the isolated, the sick and the bereaved.
"Faith, love and hope - in the home and in Church - have been a huge support during these difficult times."
With Advent and Christmas occurring in our winter, they remind us "that Christ was born to bring hope to a darkened world", said the Archbishop.
"The Covid-19 virus may have struck at the very heart of our outreach and ministry to the sick, the dying and the bereaved; but, it could not, and did not, and will not destroy our hope and our conviction that God remains especially near to people who suffer, and God is close to those who are broken-hearted," he said.
"As the prophet Isaiah said 'the people that wait in darkness have seen a great light'.
"During Advent, let us reflect on the uplifting promise of Christmas, that Christ is alive and that He is our hope."