Virtual Advent and Christmas Créche Calendar

In 2014, the McGrath Institute for Church Life began partnering with the Marian Library of Dayton, Ohio, bringing to Notre Dame’s campus an exhibit of crèches, or Nativity scenes, from around the world, and gathering members of the community to pray in procession and prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. 

Since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, we have been sharing this sacred art in a different way, through our digital Advent and Christmas Crèche Calendar—a beautiful selection including crèches from our previous six exhibits, as well as crèches never before seen on the Notre Dame campus.

Once you sign up, you will receive a daily email starting the first Sunday of Advent through January 9, 2023, with an image of a crèche from a different part of the world, accompanied by a reflective description written by faculty and staff members of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, as well as several members of the campus ministry staff of St. John’s University in Queens, New York. 

Prepare for the coming of Christ this Advent season, and continue contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation through the Christmas season.

Click here if you’d like to receive our daily crèche emails.

For more information visit the event website.

Eternal Spring

L. Dos Santos (Paraguay)

Image courtesy of The Marian Library (Dayton, Ohio); used with permission. Description text by Victoria Santangelo; © St. John’s University, 2021. Used with permission.

This Nativity scene from Paraguay is carved and beautifully painted. It depicts Jesus in a humble cradle lying before Mary. Mary, standing, holds her hands together in prayer. Joseph—barely visible—is standing behind her, peeking around his wife to see the newborn Child. The manger is embellished with two birds on either side and an angel looking over, praying for the Holy Family. The colors are bright and warm, the expressions hold a sense of joy, and the beautiful flowers suggest the newness of life that has begun in Christ.

A Shepherd’s Feast

J. B. Sengayire (Rwanda)

Image courtesy of The Marian Library (Dayton, Ohio); used with permission. Reflection text by Theresa Rice; © McGrath Institute for Church Life, 2019.

This scene of profound silence depicts the shepherd’s discovery of the Holy Family. Unlike Mary and Joseph, who close their eyes in a moment of peaceful worship, the shepherds eagerly look around the miraculous scene. Their energy in holding their staffs suggests that, though they are momentarily still, they are ready to rise and return to their lives, sharing this joyful news. We, too, are called to go forth from the crèche into our lives. May the peace of Christ teach us to return “glorifying and praising God” (Luke 2:20).

Paradise Lost?

Sidney Matias (Brazil)

Image courtesy of The Marian Library (Dayton, Ohio); used with permission. Reflection text by Carolyn Pirtle; © McGrath Institute for Church Life, 2016.

This Brazilian crèche shows the Holy Family in the manner of the Xingu tribe of the Amazon region. The vibrant birds, the animals, and the lush fruit tree call to mind the Garden of Eden, and in this paradise, all seems peaceful. However, a figure lurks in the background—a developer who seeks to destroy this place of life and flourishing. The presence of sin and salvation side by side remind us that God brings good out of evil: out of the death wrought by Adam and Eve, God brought forth life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17).

Epiphany Medallion

Unknown Artist (China)

Image courtesy of The Marian Library (Dayton, Ohio); used with permission. Description text by Dana Livingston; © St. John’s University, 2021. Used with permission.

Epiphany Medallion, an expression of Chinese artistry filled with intricate, expressive detail, depicts a portion of the Nativity story that is not traditionally at the forefront of Western representations. Placed atop a butterfly—a symbol of eternal life and, for the Christian, the new life made possible in Christ—the circular image focuses on the journey of the three magi to visit the newborn King. Journeying through a thicket of fronded plants and coconut trees, the magi, adorned with opulent robes and crowns and riding well-outfitted steeds, marvel at the star of Bethlehem, its majesty and wonder marking the site of the Nativity. The magi hold their respective gifts in their hands, seemingly presenting them to the Child who waits in the city beyond the trees, a Bethlehem represented in the style of Chinese architecture. Just as the round medallion has no end, so too the love of Christ is eternal, seen in his humble beginning, his Death and Resurrection, and continued still to this day.

A Sense of Humor and Joy

Adam Wydra (Poland)

Image courtesy of The Marian Library (Dayton, Ohio); used with permission. Reflection text by Carolyn Pirtle; © McGrath Institute for Church Life, 2018.

The bright colors and expressive faces lend this crèche an unmistakable air of Christmas joy. The angel duo serenades the infant Jesus with a lute and accordion, the artist’s nod to his Polish heritage. Looking at the smiles on their faces, one gets the sense that the music they’re playing is no soft lullaby, but rather a boisterous dance, perhaps even a polka. The entire cosmos rejoices with the angels, singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

O Thou the Central Orb by Charles Wood

Enjoy this musical performance of O Thou the Central Orb by Charles Wood, performed by the University of Notre Dame Liturgical Choir under the direction of Dr. Andrew McShane.

November 28, 2021

Religion and PhilosophyAdventChristmascrechedigest161McGrath Institute for Church LifeNativitynotre dame center for liturgyUniversity of Notre Dame