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Prayers & Devotions

The Christmas Novena

Catholics in many cultures have prayed the Christmas Novena (nine consecutive days of prayer), from December 16-24. It is a devotion well worth reviving, particularly in young families, for it focuses attention intensely on our expectation of the Coming King, and helps to prepare us spiritually to receive him into our hearts.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (on theVatican web site) comments on the background of the Christmas Novena, and suggests the use of the "O Antiphons" (see below) in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, at Vespers:

"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 of 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."

English printable Novena: Christmas Novena
You may need to adjust your print settings for this to fit on ¬†the page properly; we had success using the “Actual size” printing ¬†option from Adobe Acrobat reader.

Spanish edition online at: Novena de Navidad

The Christmas Novena that follows is suggested for devotions in Catholic homes, the "Domestic Church". The three leader parts, Father, Eldest Child and Mother may be adjusted to fit your family situation or to use in a classroom, parish or prayer group.

It begins with the Our Father and Hail Mary, and its structure resembles the prayers for Vespers of the Breviary, or Divine Office.

The Christmas Novena

All: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Our Father... Hail Mary...

Father: O Lord, Open my lips.

All: And my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

Father: O God, come to my assistance.

All: O Lord, make haste to help us. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

Father: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

All: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

Eldest child: Rejoice, O Daughter of Sion, and exult, O Daughter of Jerusalem.

All: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

Eldest child: Behold, He that is God and man shall come forth from the house of David, His Father, to sit upon His throne, and you shall see Him and your heart shall rejoice.

All: Hasten to adore.

Eldest child: Behold, the Lord shall come, our Protector, the Holy One of Israel, bearing on His head the crown of the Kingdom.

All: The Lord Our Coming King, hasten to adore.

Eldest child: The Lord will descend, as rain on the field. His justice shall rise in those days, and all the kings of the earth shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him.

All: Hasten to adore.

Eldest child: A child shall be born to us, and He shall be called the God of strength. Bethlehem, city of the Highest God, out from you shall go forth the ruler of Israel, and peace will be on the earth, when He shall have come.

All: The Lord our coming King, hasten to adore.

Father : Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

All: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All: The Lord, our Coming King. Hasten to adore.

All: Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: behold, He will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia!

Father: Let the heavens rejoice and the earth exult. Praise the Lord, you mountains.

All: Let the mountains break forth into gladness, and the hills with justice.

Father: For the Lord shall come and to the poor He shall show mercy.

All: Drop down dew, you heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One;

Father: Let the earth be opened and bud forth the Savior.

All: Be mindful of us, O Lord, and visit us in Your salvation.

Father: Show to us, O Lord, Your mercy, and grant us your salvation.

All: Come, O Lord, in peace visit us that with a perfect heart we may rejoice before You.

Father: Come, O Lord, do not tarry; do away with the offenses of Your people.

All: Come and show to us Your countenance, O Lord. You sit upon the cherubim.

Father: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

All: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All : Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh; behold, He will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.

[Isaiah 35:1-7a ]

Mother: A reading from the prophet Isaiah: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the rose it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the weak knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance with the recompense of God. He will come and save you."

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.

All: Thanks be to God.

(On Dec. 16, continue: "Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel, Alleluia, Alleluia." Each day thereafter until Christmas, say the O Antiphon of the day.)

The Magnificat
[Luke 1:46-55 RSV]

Father: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

All: For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,

Father: For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.

All: And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

Father: He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,

All: He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted those of low degree;

Father: He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

All: He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.

Father: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever.

All: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Father: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All: (repeat the O Antiphon of the day)

Concluding Prayers

Father: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come to You.

Father: Let us pray. Stir up Thy power and come, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and with great might help us. May our deliverance, which our sins impede, be hastened by the help of Thy grace and the forgiveness of Thy mercy. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

All: Amen.

Father: Let us bless the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Father: May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

All: Amen.

All: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

The "Great O's"

The final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great O Antiphons of Advent on the evening of December 17. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.

The O Antiphons are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.

A vestige of the "Great O's" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".

Families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of liturgical poetry and use them in their evening prayers. An O Antiphon House similar to an Advent Calendar, can be made, with seven windows, each concealing an appropriate symbol for each O Antiphon, and an eighth window hiding the Nativity scene. As with an Advent calendar, one window is opened each day.

The sublime meditation of the Great O's would be excellent for families with children who have outgrown the Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. In any case, they are beautiful additions to your family prayers in the days just before Christmas.

The O Antiphons appear below in English translation, with scriptural sources and suggested symbols.

The O Antiphons

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Sirach 24:2; Wisdom 8:1. Symbols: oil lamp, open book.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

Exodus 3:2, 20:1. Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets .

O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.

Isaiah 11:1-3., 10 Symbol: vine or plant in flower, especially a rose.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Isaiah 22:22. Symbols: key; broken chains.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: Come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Psalm 19:6-7. Symbol: rising sun.

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

Psalm 2:7-8, Ephesians 2:14-20. Symbols, Crown, scepter .

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.

I saiah 7:14; 33:22. Symbols: tablets of stone, Chalice and Host.

This Christmas Novena is intended for private use.
Scripture from the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition
Copyright Women for Faith & Family, PO Box 300411, St. Louis, MO 63130 - Phone 314 863-8385; Fax 314 863-5858.
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