I'm usually a pretty big Scrooge this time of year. Maybe it's from hearing Christmas music blaring on the radio for an entire month already. Honestly, if I hear "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" one more time, I just may throw something at the radio! Or, maybe it's all the stress of decorating, baking, shopping and trying to stay within a budget (I never succeed!) But this year, for some unknown reason, I am feeling a bit more joyous. Maybe it's because I'm not pressuring myself to shop, bake cookies or decorate until it gets closer to Christmas. Maybe it's because I'm not forcing myself to send out Christmas cards. Could it possibly be because I have decided to make this Advent more prayerful, more quiet, more penitential?
I'm not sure, because although I had decided that this year I would forgo drinks and treats until Christmas, here I am eating a piece of my boss' store-bought birthday cake, while I salivate over the thought of how delicious my own homemade Walnut Mocha birthday cake, lovingly prepared by my husband on the 45th anniversary of my birth, will taste tomorrow. It's not even two days in to Advent and I have already caved to temptation with the anticipation of even more caving to come shortly. Sigh... But, I am not going to beat myself up about it. I am going to get back up on my donkey and continue the Advent ride, working to make my heart not just an empty space where Christ can be born, but a warm and inviting place where he will eagerly long to reside even more than I look forward to my birthday cake.
Although this glutton may frequently fail in her attempts to fast and abstain from goodies, I have the holy St. Andrew to thank for my success in making the season more prayerful. The reason I thank St. Andrew is because today, on his feast day, I begin the annual St. Andrew's Christmas Novena. It's one of my favorite prayerful traditions that goes back to my childhood days when my family and I would pray it after our evening rosary, from November 30th until Christmas Eve. The lovely words of the prayer make it so easy to conjure up an image in my mind of that cold and fearful night when our Lord was born.
Although it is promised that by repeating the prayer fifteen times each day, the one praying will obtain their request, I can only remember one time in my life that my intention was quickly and positively heard and answered, but what a glorious answer that was! It was back in 1990 when Operation Desert Storm had just been declared on November 29th. That year, I prayed for peace and a quick end to the conflict in which the United States had become involved. How thrilled I was that it was all over by February 27th, 1991, when President Bush called an end to the war! But I am sure that in many small and unknown ways, my St. Andrew's Novenas have been heard and relished by the Lord, whether or not I was aware of any answer.
Thank you, St. Andrew, for helping me to keep a spirit of Advent every year, even if it is only for the short time that it takes me to pray your novena!
St. Andrew's Christmas Novena
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. At 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.