Despite distance, Iraqi Christians keep the spirit of Christmas alive

ISTANBUL — Sami Dankha, his three brothers and their families used to kick off Christmas celebrations by attending a packed Christmas Eve Mass at St. Thomas Church in Baghdad. Wearing brand new clothes and sporting fresh haircuts, they spent the night chatting, singing and eating pacha, a dish made from sheep's head that Iraqis consider a delicacy and a staple of Christmas.

DEAR FATHER | O Antiphons mark great joy that is about to come at Christmas

The character of the Advent season reflects the meaning of the word Advent.

Advent comes from the Latin word advenio, meaning to come. By the very name of the season, the Church calls us to reflect on the two comings of Christ: at the end of time and in His birth at Bethlehem.

From the root of Jesse a child will be born

Example of a Jesse Tree

From the root of a very special tree emerges the story of our Lord who becomes human for the sake of all humanity.

The Jesse Tree has helped us to understand the people, prophesies and events from the Old Testament that lead to the birth of Christ. The ancient tradition dates to Medieval times, and is found in art including ornate wooden carvings, stained-glass windows and illuminated manuscripts.

Dear Father | The Magi were dedicated to seeking the highest truth

Father John Mayo

Who were the Wise Men and why were they the ones to seek Jesus? 

Christmas comes with pain but hope for displaced families in Iraq

A displaced Iraqi woman baked bread on a traditional oven at a camp in Baghdad.

BEIRUT -- Catholic patriarchs from the Middle East encouraged their troubled people to find inner peace at Christmas and urged the world to remember them.

"In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who comes into our hearts in silence and tears," said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. However, he said, "We remain sustained by (an) inner peace that perpetuates the joy of faith and hope that we will, despite the trials, work toward a fairer country and a better future."

DEAR FATHER | Advent is first in liturgical year as recognition of first moment of Christ’s life

Father John Mayo

Why is Advent considered the beginning of a new liturgical year? 

Calendars bring order and sequence to the events of our lives. Each day, we look to our calendar to see what we are going to do that particular day. We also look ahead to see what will be happening the rest of the week or month. It reminds us about events we may look forward to.

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