In today’s general audience (December 17) the Pope mentioned the Christmas novena to the faithful a practice we ought to engage in. The hope of Christmas fulfills our human desires for union with God. Consider what Benedict XVI said:
Today we commence the Christmas Novena of Advent by contemplating the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem. Christmas speaks to everyone; it celebrates the gift of life – often fragile or endangered – and the fulfilment of our deepest hopes for a world renewed. The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God’s coming among us as man. The Word became flesh to offer humanity the salvation which can only be received as a gracious gift from God. The same Word by whom the universe was made, the Word which gives all creation its ultimate meaning, has come to dwell among us: he now speaks to us, he reveals the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and he guides us to the Love which is our fulfilment. In the Christ Child, God humbly knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks us freely to accept his love, his truth, his life. As Christmas approaches, let us rekindle our hope in God’s promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world.
In 2002, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a set of principles and guidelines to help our pious activities flourish. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy tries to harmonize personal and ecclesial piety with the liturgical worship of the Church. At this time of the year the Directory says:
103. The Christmas novena began as a means of communicating the riches of the Liturgy to the faithful who were unable easily to grasp it. It has played a very effective role and can continue to play such a role. At the same time, in current conditions where the faithful have easier access to the Liturgy, it would seem desirable that Vespers from the 17-23 of December should be more solemn by adopting the use of the “major antiphons”, and by inviting the faithful to participate at the celebration. Such a celebration, held either before or after which the popular devotions to which the faithful are particularly attached, would be an ideal “Christmas Novena”, in full conformity with the Liturgy and mindful of the needs of the faithful. Some elements, such as the homily, the use of incense, and the intercessions, could also be expanded within the celebration of Vespers.
Below is one of many versions of a Christmas Novena prayer. This particular prayer names Saint Andrew in its title but doesn’t ask him to intercede for us before God. The faithful, in some places, begin on the feast of Saint Andrew, November 30th, and pray the prayer 15x in a given day, everyday, till Christmas.
Saint Andrew 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. 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.