Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the Season of Preparation

 A Christmas Novena  

Adore, oh my soul,
in the bosom of Mary,
the only-begotten Son of God
who was made man
for love of you.

Our Redemptoristine community of contemplative nuns will begin offering this novena Christmas prayer on December 16th. We say it at the close of the Office of Vespers (evening prayer). There will be no lights in chapel except those of the Advent wreath. Each sister will say the prayer out loud in turn, leaving a little meditative pause between each one. At the end we will all sing the Salve Regina. For each of us, offering this novena, in this way, is a very moving experience. In addition, it serves to focus our preparations for the feast of Christmas on our prayers for the needs of our world, the sick and suffering, the unemployed, those affected by wars and a myriad of other intentions as well as the individual prayer requests we receive regularly.

I was introduced to novenas as a little girl. Our parish church was almost directly across the street from my Brooklyn home. My aunt went to novena there every Tuesday evening and I would often accompany her. Many would gather in the Church summer or winter. Each person had a collection of little novena booklets ready for the prayers to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Mother of Perpetual Help and the Infant Jesus of Prague, one right after the other. Prayers ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, incense and all! I still have all of my little booklets.

The practice of saying special prayers for nine days before a special feast of the Liturgical Year has been part of Catholic culture for hundreds of years. The word 'novena' comes from the Latin for number nine.

There are many prayer practices in addition to the novena that are connected with Advent and Christmas in the Catholic tradition. More to come on that topic.

Many people, not only Catholics, use this prayer practice before the feast of their favorite saints. I like to privately pray a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, before her feast in October each year. In some cultures a novena of prayers is said in preparation for the anniversary of a special event or the death of a loved one.

Consider adding our simple Christmas Novena to your Advent Wreath Prayers with your family. If you haven't set up a wreath, why not begin your Christmas preparation on the 16th with these few words of adoration at the beginning or end of your dinner each night. In may make a big difference in the way you meet the great feast of the Incarnation when it comes.

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