Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Importance of the Christmas Novena - November 30th

On November 30th the St. Andrew’s Novena, also known as the Christmas Novena begins. It is a great way to place any important intentions at the feet of the Infant Jesus, with confidence and hope in His intercession. This prayer is said 15 times a day, from November 30th until December 24th, and goes as follows,

“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.”

 What a beautiful way to salute our Blessed Mother as a preparation for Christmas! Our Lady is always very watchful over our souls and knows exactly what we need. Yet at times our prayers of petition can seem to be left unanswered. But we always must remember that God only answers prayers that are good for our souls. What a great blessing this is! Imagine all the prayers you used to say as a young teenager had been answered. At the time you asked for these favours from God, you did not know the future and all your needs as an adult. The youth often see the world with all its bells and whistles, and forget that some of the things that are offered are often harmful for our souls. Fame and success come with a price, so our heavenly Father shields and protects us in every way He can. God knows all our needs, and carefully plans out everything for a greater good during our entire lives, not just one portion of it. God cares for us far more than we care for ourselves, and desires nothing but peace and happiness for us in this life and the life to come. St. Alphonsus de Ligouri tells us, "God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: ‘Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.’ ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification.’ God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls."

At times though, God leaves prayers unanswered for a period of time in order to test our confidence in Him. This is when the power of a novena comes into play. St. Teresa of Avila tells us that the prayers that truly matter are those of perseverance, "The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don't mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire . . . The best effects are those that are followed up by actions, when the soul not only desires the honor of God, but really strives for it." Perhaps we need a curing of a family member, or need assistance with our financial position, all these intentions can be laid at the feet of the Infant Jesus with humility and hope. The St. Andrew's novena is especially important to say since it is a longer novena and helps us prepare for Christmas during Advent.

But why does St. Andrew have such significance in this novena? The reason is that the First Sunday of Advent is the closest Sunday to his great feast day, and therefore we commemorate him. He helps us offer our prayers to Our Blessed Lord, just as he offered his own life for the greater glory of God and for our salvation through his martyrdom. Oftentimes when we pray to the saints, we feel they are far from us in heaven, instead of remembering they were just like us here on earth. They had their struggles, their temptations, and victoriously won in the end. St. Andrew the apostle is a great example of this. He was a humble fisherman who served God as best as he could through his daily duty. And even though his humble life did not show any spectacular works to those who saw him, Our Lord saw the greatness of his heart and called him to be one of the twelve apostles. St. Andrew is known as one of the apostles who was very close to Our Blessed Lord's heart. In John 6:8, he is known to be the apostle who found the little boy with his loaves and fishes, and later on would be known as the apostle who was crucified on an 'X' shaped cross. Though St. Andrew was just an ordinary man, he became an incredible saint that we can honour and look up to. Because this novena begins on his feast day, he can take our prayers and purify them before presenting them to Our Lord. It is always a fantastic idea to call upon a saint or angel to give our prayers to God instead of giving them to Him directly. The particular saint that we choose can use their merit and sanctity in heaven to present our intention to our heavenly Father, and plea alongside us for the intention.

 Let us then ask St. Andrew to assist us and help us grow in all the virtues we need to be perfect in the eyes of the Infant Jesus. Because once we allow God’s grace to work in our souls and stop doubting that He wants what is best for us, our lives will open up with endless possibilities and we will no longer need to feel troubled or lost. In God we will be able to find the peace we so desperately seek, because, as St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

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