By Doreen Abi Raad | Catholic News Service
BEIRUT (CNS) — Violette Yammine aims to illuminate Advent and Christmas hope for Lebanese facing tough times.
The graphic designer has launched an “Advent Box” that includes a “Meditations for Advent with the Holy Family” booklet, with an accompanying set of Holy Family figurine candles. Separately, there is also a children’s Christmas story.
The two Christmas season family participation projects are the first offerings of Yammine’s Catholic design firm “Banafsaj,” which is how Violette is pronounced in Arabic.
Yammine, a Maronite Catholic, considers her enterprise — Banafsaj Christian Designs — a way “to offer beautiful violets, and scents, to the Lord.”
In Lebanon, she noticed, most Christian family-oriented publications are produced by evangelical churches. So, she decided “to put all my talent in the service of Christ.”
The Advent booklet and accompanying Holy Family candles are intended for the three Sundays preceding Christmas. Yammine said she hopes it will spark “an Advent well spent in prayer.”
The first Sunday reading concerns the Annunciation, intended for the Mary candle. The second Sunday reading is the revelation to Joseph, and thus the Joseph candle.
The birth of Jesus is the third and final Sunday reading, with the candle of baby Jesus in the manger.
“O Holy Child Jesus, grant us during this Christmas season, in spite of the circumstances in which we live, to ever proclaim the Gospel of Joy, as brought by the angel to the shepherds,” reads the accompanying prayer.
Yammine continues to work as as senior designer in the communications department at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik. For Banafsaj Christian Designs, she counts on the spiritual direction of three priests: two Maronites and a Jesuit.
The Advent booklet of meditations is offered in Arabic, French and English to match the largely trilingual population of Lebanon.
The Christmas book for children, “The Christmas Story,” is published through Jesuit publishing house Dar el Machreq, founded in 1848, and distributed by Librairie Stephan, both based in Beirut.
Currently available in Arabic, and next Christmas in English and French, “The Christmas Story” has been approved by Latin-rite Bishop César Essayan, apostolic vicar of Beirut.
The story unfolds as a grandfather, Toufic, reads from the Old Testament at bedtime to his grandchildren, Thalia and Mark, telling them that in those times, “people built a tent and called it the tent of meeting. At the heart of this tent, they used to pray and feel God’s presence.”
Toufic explains to his grandchildren that when Jesus was born, a new tent took its place.
“Because Jesus loves us so much, he made a tent inside the heart of every person … a special tent in which he could be born again in each person’s heart.”
Toufic then instructs his grandchildren how, through prayer, good deeds, and through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, the door of their inner tent opens wide.
“When the door opens, the whole world will see a strong light, just like the sun’s rays,” the grandfather explains. “This will be the light of Jesus, a light that no one can blow out, especially if you take care of your tent and keep it clean.”
The book also comes with a cut-out paper tent to decorate as an ornament.
“Despite all the difficult circumstances in Lebanon, I have a light inside my heart, like ‘The Christmas Story’ says, that gives me hope that everything in Lebanon will be OK,” Yammine told Catholic News Service.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, now in its third year, has made life a daily struggle for 80% of the population that has fallen into poverty in the once middle-income country. Salaries for those who are still employed have been reduced to a small fraction that barely suffices for daily essentials, amid a currency devaluation of more than 90% since 2019.
“The need for spiritual growth is as important as our everyday needs,” Yammine said.