16 December 2020
Diocese of Down and Connor (extract from diocesan guidance for Christmas 2020) Christmas 2020 will be a very different Christmas for everyone. Families and parishes across the diocese will not be able to celebrate in the normal way. The season of Christmas is a season of celebration, but this year it is essential that we celebrate safely. Normally at Christmas time large numbers of people wish to attend Mass. This year, however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our churches simply cannot accommodate such crowds if we are to ensure the health and safety of all and conform to Public Health Agency guidance and NI Executive legislation. In order to avoid the real possibility of increased transmission of the Covid-19 virus this Christmas, it is important to remember that the obligation to attend Mass in person this Christmas has been suspended. In this extraordinary year, let us all celebrate Christmas safely.
USUAL MASS TIMES ON AND FROM St STEPHEN’S DAY
Please remember the one-way entry and exit arrangements
and that FaceMasks MUST be worn at all times.
ST STEPHENS DAY: (1PM & 6.30PM)
SUNDAY 27TH DEC: (9.30AM & 12.30PM)
MONDAY 28TH DEC: (10AM)
TUESDAY 29TH DEC: ( NO MASS)
WEDNESDAY 30TH DEC: (10AM)
THURSDAY 31ST DEC: (10AM)
FRIDAY 1ST JAN: (10AM)
SATURDAY 2ND JAN: (1PM & 6.30PM)
SUNDAY 3RD JAN: (9.30AM & 12.30PM)
MONDAY 4TH JAN: (10AM)
TUESDAY 5TH JAN: (NO MASS)
WEDNESDAY 6TH JAN: (10AM Feast Of The Epiphany )
FaceMasks MUST be worn at all times. Social distancing must be observed, and children must remain always in the company of their parents – no moving about. Social distancing must not breakdown at the end of Mass – please leave the Church grounds immediately after Mass and avoid gathering in groups. It cannot be emphasized enough how essential it is to observe these norms.
PARISH OFFICE: Will close on Wednesday 23rd Dec and will re-open on Tuesday 5th Jan at 9am
SPECIAL THANKS To all who volunteered throughout this present year especially given the difficult circumstances. Thank you for your dedication and hard work it is greatly appreciated. We wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year .
AN ACT OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen
INTENTIONS FOR MASSES …
Wednesday 6th Jan: (10am Feast Of The Epiphany )
Christmas Message 2020
“Christmas at Home”
Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” Matthew 1:20
On 8th December 2020, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter “With a Father’s Heart”1, dedicating the year ahead under the patronage of St Joseph. The scriptures recall how, in the most difficult of personal circumstances, Joseph took Mary into his home, welcomed the Christ-child as his own and courageously became their guardian. In Joseph, Mary and Jesus witnessed the tender love of God.2
Christmas 2020 is a very different Christmas for everyone. Families and parishes across the world are not able to celebrate in the normal way. For some, this will be a Christmas celebrated at home. Sacrificing much in the pursuit of health and wellbeing, others will spend this Christmas in isolation, unable to join those they love. Like Mary and Joseph, exiled to protect the newly born Christ child, many have been compelled to change their plans at the last minute because of evolving circumstances.
And yet the light of the Christ-Child can still illuminate the hearts and hearths of all this Christmas bringing joy and hope.
This experience will certainly evoke in many of us a nostalgia for the memories of Christmas in previous years, recalling those who were with us in the past, family celebrations and gatherings, Christmas carolling, Vigil Masses and prayers around the crib.
At the same time, the 2020 Christmas experience will cast light on and reveal so much that we have taken for granted. Over this past year, we have all learned to draw upon new sources of creativity and resourcefulness. This Christmas there is the potential to experience and strengthen further our homes as cradles of faith and prayer within our parishes and Christian communities. Just as with the wise men from the East, there is wonder and joy to be experienced – namely, to identify afresh and appreciate anew the personal qualities of those closest and most familiar to us.
So, let us celebrate Christmas at Home. In our homes, let the Christ-child take center place. Over this festive season, I encourage you to join our parish communities online and to pray for one another, for your families and friends. Let us pray also for our health care workers and for all front-line staff as they selflessly and tirelessly continue to care for our sick throughout the Christmas season. And we could use the methods of communication available to us to reach out and connect with those we love and especially those living on their own.
May the blessing of this Christmas Season bring hope and joy into your hearts and homes.
Bishop of Down and Connor
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven!’
The account we read this evening from Luke’s Gospel shows Jesus being born into a situation of total oppression. Luke reminds us of the political regime which controls the land and the effect this has on the people. Luke only gives one sentence to the actual birth of Jesus and then focuses his attention on the shepherds. There is a reason for their presence. Shepherds were considered ‘ritually unclean’ because of their close contact with animals. Their lives would have been full of poverty, fear and struggle. So, this scene that Luke paints is not a tranquil setting, this is a setting on the margins. Everything about this story is provocative and uneasy. It is into this ‘mess’ God comes as a homeless child. We are being invited to expect the unexpected.
Luke begins his gospel as he means to continue, turning the world upside down in solidarity with the outcast. He places angels rejoicing with shepherds, the ‘highest’ and the ‘lowest’, giving glory to God together. The good news of Jesus’ birth goes first to the marginalised. It is in their name that the shepherds are chosen. As you sing the Gloria during this Christmas season, come back to this marginal space where it was first sung, with the angels and the shepherds in a field. No boundaries, no walls, no purification rituals, but the promise of a deep peace for all, a peace for which the world desperately longs. It is for this reason we rejoice. We are invited to Bethlehem today, to open up our hearts to the One who has come. We return, like the shepherds ‘glorifying and praising God for all they have seen and heard’. All are welcome to the manger. May we welcome all as God does, with compassion and love.
‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, come forth from deep within me with Christmas luminous beauty. For my heart has become the sacred crib, the birthing place of God-among-us.’
Christmas Table Prayer
Loving God, on this Christmas day we give thanks that Jesus, your Son, has come into our world bringing us gifts of peace and joy. Bless us as we sit down together for our Christmas meal. Bless the food we share and help us to remember those who are hungry. Be with our neighbours and our friends, those who are lonely, sick or away from home. We pray that our departed loved ones may sit now at your table in heaven. May the joy of this feast give us strength and light, now and in the days ahead. Amen
Fr Thomas and staff wish you and your family
Christmas Joy and Peace and a very Happy New Year