Digital Advent + Christmas Crèche 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.

”Images of Jesus’ nativity remind us that God has made our world his home.”

-John Cavadini

Here's a glimpse of what you'll recieve with each email.

Our Life And Light

The flowers winding through these ceramic figures and the bright colors of this crèche represent vibrant and unconquerable life. The animals surrounding the crèche display an endearing curiosity as they tenderly stretch their faces closer to the sleeping Child, while the stylized postures of the human figures suggest a peaceful contemplation. The indefatigable life of this crèche display reminds us that Christ’s birth is the mark of hope: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

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

A Staircase To Heaven

Starting from the top right, the Blessed Virgin Mary kneels as the archangel Gabriel announces that she has been chosen to bear the Son of God. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovers over the scene, as the Incarnation of Christ is set into being. Both sets of stairs lead down to the scene of the Nativity, where Mary, St. Joseph, and a host of animals, shepherds, and angels have all come to witness the birth of the Christ-Child. The left staircase then leads back up to the scene of the Crucifixion, with Mary and St. John mourning at the feet of Christ on the Cross. The central and largest section of this crèche is a replication of the scene of the Last Supper as painted by Leonardo da Vinci, its scale reflecting the tremendous importance of the event as it is celebrated in the Mass. This mother of pearl masterpiece is a coalescence of the Christian faith, demonstrating the intrinsic importance of all aspects of the life of Christ, from before his birth to after his Death and Resurrection.

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

Silent Night

The monochromatic figures in this crèche speak to a simplicity of spirit, while the details of body language and facial expressions speak to a joyfulness of heart. Many of the figures have smiles on their faces: Mary, the shepherd on the left, the wise man on the right. There is a lilting dynamism in this crèche. All of the standing figures are bent on a graceful diagonal: from the tilt of their heads to the sweep of their garments, all are inclined toward the newborn King. In turn, from his manger bed, the Christ-Child reaches as far as his infant arms will go, eager to embrace not only those who surround him with love and adoration, but the entire world. May we incline our hearts toward him this season and always, and allow him to embrace us with the fullness of his love.

Image courtesy of The Marian Library (Dayton, Ohio); used with permission. Description text by Carolyn Pirtle; ©McGrath Institute for Church Life, 2021.