Visiting Christ’s Birth: a St. Andrew’s Novena Reflection

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 piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, 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.

Years ago one Advent I uttered this prayer in earnest for the first time.  Its words flooded my heart with meaning during a season of real wanting.

My husband was in the throes of his first year of law school that December and was preparing to take exams.  As we liked to call ourselves, I was a “law school widow” and was attempting to offer up his absence.  Our first child had just turned 10 months old and I was very, very tired.  So tired, in fact, that I took a pregnancy test and found that not only were we awaiting the arrival of Jesus on Christmas, we were anticipating the birth of our own little miracle.  He was due 18 months to the day after our first-born.  Beyond any fears I had at the time, I wanted this baby to thrive and be well more than anything in the world.  I wanted to learn his name; to smell his sweetness… I wanted so desperately to be a mom again.

But there were no guarantees.  Baby Therese had taught me to cherish every day with my child and to pray with all my heart for acceptance of God’s will.  So I turned to St. Andrew’s Novena for a prayer of solace during such a tumultuous time.  The prayer I uttered over and over gave a special vision to my Advent season that year and still elicits thoughts and queries about Christ’s birth.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born…

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there at the moment of Christ’s birth?  What did Mary say?  Was she a peaceful laborer?  Or did she utter out in relief?  Was Joseph by her side or pacing outside the stable?  Did they weep together?  Was Jesus a loud baby like my Mary Grace (“the loudest baby in the hospital nursery”!) or was he tranquil like my James?  Every time I pray these words, I imagine all the possibilities of the actual delivery of our Lord and Savior.  Now having had five of my own, I can’t begin to fathom what labor must have been like on a bed of straw and surrounded by farm animals.  While crude and unwelcoming, the scene in my mind has a warmth and sense of peace and comfort about it too.

…of the most pure Virgin Mary… in piercing cold.

The peace I imagine is most likely due to Mary being part of the vision.  Anytime I think of our most Holy Mother, I think of her peace and patience.  There is no question in my mind she was a heavenly woman, “most pure” and beautiful.  Was she afraid?  Or did she trust God so completely, she didn’t have time for fear?  She surely was tired and in pain; warm from delivery, but losing body heat as she recovered post-delivery.  The words “piercing cold” always drove home for me the appropriate understanding that even though Mary and Joseph were in desert-like surroundings, night-time can be especially frigid.  Nestled among the animals surely helped them keep warm.  No baby warmers were there for precious Jesus, just his mama.  They most likely huddled together and Christ nursed.  This imagery elicits an inner warmth as I imagine the Holy Family being together for the first time.  What joy this scene must have given our Heavenly Father!

In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires…

I love that St. Andrew’s Novena places the person praying right at that moment of Christ’s birth.  It humbles me as I pray before our Lord and places my requests and desires at the foot of the manger, where Christ lay.  I imagine bowing down and worshiping tiny Jesus in his first moments of life.  By doing so, I am sure to offer up my most sincere and heartfelt requests that are only appropriate to lay at the feet our sweet Lord.

…through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Maybe you’ve missed the start of St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena, starting on November 30 and going through Christmas, but perhaps this is a prayer you can add to your prayer life over the next 15 days.  I promise you, it’s words will offer solace to your soul, visions to your mind, and hope to your heart as you visit the scene of the arrival of Jesus.  Let your mind wander to the corners of the stable and truly put you in the presence of Christ, our Lord.    He is coming, Alleluia!

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com/ Kellie

    Love this reflection. Thank you!

  • Katrina

    Beautiful reflection, thank you, Bethany!

  • Juris Mater

    Lovely. I was first introduced to this novena 7? years ago when Katrina suggested we all pray it for your family’s protection during the second deployment situation. I couldn’t believe it worked miraculously–I was never a novena gal until then, and now I look forward to the miracle Christmas novena every year.

  • J’

    I’m late to reading this, but I soaked in every word. I love this novena, and hadn’t known about it until Katrina as well (thanks Kat!)…its so beautiful. Thanks for the meditation on it B’…

  • Lydia

    That is just so incredibly beautiful. It really makes me visualize what the Blessed Mother and Joseph must have experienced. I’ve been trying to do Ignatian contemplation and have been using a book by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ. It’s called “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” http://j.mp/fmphlap and in the section on the Nativity there is a picture of the door to the Church of the Nativity and what strikes me is that the door is tiny and you have to humble yourself (make yourself small) to enter and how the door is just 3 large blocks of stone. But how many thousands and thousands of people have humbled themselves to worship where the Lord was born. Each person brings with them their pain and awe but is able kiss the place where our Lord took His first breath. And how I should have that awe every time I receive the Eucharist. I’ve missed St. Andrew’s novena but I’ll still contemplate His birth and hopefully it will bring peace this Christmas.

    • cinhosa

      I second Lydia’s comment that Fr. Mitch’s book is a great source of contemplation during this Advent season. Reading this book, because of it’s pictures of the Holy Land, prayers and Scripture references provide time and space for contemplation and peace.


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