Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For the Love of Saint Andrew: A Christmas Novena

Today both the Western and Eastern churches observe the Feast of St. Andrew, which commemorates the martyrdom of this Jewish fisherman.  In Scotland, where Saint Andrew is the patron saint, this is their national day. Saint Andrew was Saint Peter's younger brother and the first of Christ's apostles.

Saint Andrew's name, which is of Greek origin, means "manhood." How fitting that St. Andrew's Christmas Novena begins today and ends Christmas Eve. Normally a novena is prayed over a period of time nine days long.  But the term is also used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days as well. That is the case for this traditional prayer.

In the secular world, this is the Christmas shopping season. St. Andrew , a fisher of men, can help us keep our focus on encountering Christ. (Here he is in the painting "The Call of Saint Andrew" by 14th century artist Duccio. You can see this painting in Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art) 

As I've mentioned before, a novena is not a dispensing machine: don't put your request in and expect to receive it when your novena is over.  Instead, these prayers will give structure to our days, helping us to meditate on the life of God's people as we await the coming of Our Savior. Sarah Harkins, who makes clay rosaries, handcrafted a Saint Andrew's Chaplet to help Christians along. Tradition has it we are to recite this prayer 15 times a day until Christmas.

Unlike most novenas, this prayer is not a petition for St. Andrew to pray for us. Instead, this short prayer is a petition to God the Father.

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at 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, Oh my God!, to hear my prayers and grant my desires (Mention your intentions here), through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Won't you join me?