For someone who hates being awake at 3 o’clock in the morning, I have found myself rising from slumber around that time to prepare myself for our parish’s 4:30am Dawn Mass. Ever since I could remember, I have always wanted to complete the Christmas Novena. To date, this year was only the third time in my entire life that I was able to complete it. This year was particularly special, because in all the nine masses, I was permitted to serve as a Lector/Commentator. And in all the masses, I was able to assist at Lauds.
This actually explains why I rise at 3am. Not only did I have to do my usual morning toilet. I had to make sure I was in church by 4am to prepare myself for the celebration – mentally, spiritually, and logistically. Upon arriving, I would sign off on the attendance sheet of the Lectors/Commentators ministry. Then I would check the logistical requirements of my assignment. If I was the Commentator, I would review the flow of that morning’s liturgy, the announcements I would have to make, and the like. If I was a Lector, I would prepare and review the Lectionary. I would also double check my Breviary for that day’s Lauds. After that, I would settle down for a few minutes of meditation following some writings of St. Alphonsus di Liguori.
As the days of the Christmas Novena progressed, I found myself encountering various situations in my ordinary life where my faith-in-action would be challenged. There were many instances when I had to struggle with impatience – my perennial flaw. In many things I am patient. But in committed appointments, in having to repeat instructions, and in slowness of intellectual pick up (borne of my intellectual pride), ah, here I am weakest.
I had to grapple with a few instances where my pride was pricked. While it was through no fault of my own, I had to choose between the magnanimity of letting things pass, and the ordinary right for vindication. I had to wrestle with the lazy stupor that comes with the holidays. Even my fight for temperance and continence almost felt like a losing battle. In short, I had become keenly aware of the dark side of my self – that side that I have reserved to myself, to my own personal sense of right and pleasure; that side I have not laid before the Lord Jesus.
This awareness was precisely my first blessing from the Lord in this Christmas Novena. I have acquired, by the working of the Holy Spirit, a deeper understanding of just how bad a person I could be. Has this awareness led me to compunction? I don’t know. God alone knows just how contrite I am now. One thing is for sure – I felt helpless. I felt like I wanted to be better, if not just good, but I couldn’t find the willpower to sustain it.
And this helplessness brought me to the second grace of this Christmas Novena. In the last nine mornings, I have felt more keenly the presence of Mary Most Holy, my mother and the Mother of the Lord. This feeling reached its peak in one Dawn Mass where the choir sang the Memorare. And as I sang-prayed with them, I knew with greater conviction that as I desire to become more and more like Christ-for-God and Christ-for-others, our Lady would be my sure and constant guide, advocate, and protectress.
And finally, our Lady’s maternal presence brought me the third grace of this Christmas Novena. She probably asked it of the Spirit, for now I have a strong desire to expand my heart – my entire being – to make more and more space for God to dwell and act in and through me. More of God, less of self – this is the desire that the Spirit must have planted in me by the prodding of Mary Most Holy.
For this three-fold grace, I am already grateful. It is truly an affirmation that God continues to work in my life – using both moments of desolation and consolation – for me to encounter Him and enable me to continue this journey of faith.
The Christmas Novena is one made in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who for nine months carried the Incarnate God in her immaculate womb. It is a celebration of waiting, of joyful expectation. It is a time too, to lay before our Lady and her Child our prayers. But now it is not just a moment of waiting, it has become truly an encounter with the Lord. It is no longer just a period of petition, but also that of praise. For the God I sought was waiting to be found, that we may meet. For my petitions were ready to be granted, that His love and mercy may forever be sung.
Come, Lord Jesus, and find a bigger, cleaner, fresher room in my heart this Christmas. After all, it was your Mother and your Spirit who cleaned it up for Your coming.
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Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection
Implored they help or sought thine intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother;
To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions,
But in thy mercy, hear and answer me.
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For another interpretation of the Memorare, check this out: