Christmas Novena

Introduction

Father Charles Vachetta, pastor of the Church of the Immaculate in Turin, Italy, wanted to give his parishioners something special for the Advent of 1721. He wanted them to understand the intertwining of the Old and New Testaments so they could see for themselves the love of God unfold from the beginning of time and for all eternity. Father Vachetta decided to give them the gift of a novena--a prayer going deep into the spirit of Advent, leaving one inspired with inexpressible joy. So Father Vachetta began to write his nine-day prayer, to stir the hearts of his parishioners to eagerly await the coming of Christ.

Father Vachetta was a poet and scholar, steeped in Biblical theology. Using the Latin Vulgate, he wove the novena from the psalms and prophecies of the Old Testament which foretold the coming of the Messiah and crowned his masterpiece by retelling the birth of John the Baptist.

Then, taking some of Scripture's lesser known prophecies, he composed a canticle, or prayer- song of incomparable beauty called "Let the Heavens Be Glad." The canticle is sung after the seven major prophecies and makes a fitting antiphon for the Scripture readings of the day.

The Christmas novena, as it is now known, begins on December 16, nine days before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve. Father Vachetta left us the heritage of a lovely Advent tradition and his work continues to prepare hearts for the coming of Christ through the prophecies, psalms and Gospels. His Christmas novena will inspire people for ages to come.

Christmas Novena
If the novena is led by a priest, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

Hymn (Optional)
(Sung to the melody of "Creator of the Starry Skies")

Behold a thrilling voice calls out
And chides the darkened shades of earth
Pale dreams are gone, dim shadows fly
Christ in his might now shines on high!
The Lamb of God is sent below
Himself to pay the debt we owe.
O for this gift let every voice
With songs and prayers to God rejoice.
The Blessed Author of our race
Took human form to bring us grace
Lest lost should be those whom he made,
And he with love our sin repaid.
And see! with heavenly grace instilled,
A Mother's loving heart is filled.
Behold a Virgin's body bears
The mystery of endless years!
The Mother makes her spotless breast
A temple for the child to rest.
This Virgin loved the Holy One
And she conceived the Eternal Son.
To him who comes the world to free,
To God the Son, all glory be,
To Father, Maker of us all
And Holy Spirit, God, we call.

R. Drop down dew from above, you heavens, and let the clouds rain the just one.
V. Let the earth be opened and bud forth the Savior.

Christmas Prophecies

R. Our Lord and king is drawing near; O come let us adore him!
V. Our Lord and king is drawing near; O come let us adore him!

Rejoice, Daughter of Sion, and exult Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold the Lord comes, and there will be a great light in that day, and the mountains shall drop down sweetness. The hills shall flow with milk and honey, for in that day the great prophet will come and he will renew Jerusalem. (cf. Zeph 3:14-18)

Our Lord and King...
Behold the God-Man of the house of David will come to sit upon the royal throne and you will see him and your heart will rejoice. (cf. Jer 23:5-8)

Our Lord and King...
The Lord our protector will come, the Holy One of Israel, wearing a crown upon his royal brow. And he will reign from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. (cf. Is 33:22)
Our Lord and King...
The Lord will appear, and he will not deceive; if he should delay, wait for him to come. He will surely come and will not tarry. (cf. Hab 2:3)

Our Lord and King...
The Lord will come down like rain upon the fleece of Gideon. Justice will reign and an abundance of true peace. All the kings of the lands will adore him and every nation will serve him. (cf. Jdg 6:38; Ps 72:3-4; Is 2:3)

Our Lord and King...
A child will be born to us, and he will be called God the almighty; he will sit upon the royal throne of David his father, and he will hold sway, the sign of his power on his shoulder. (cf. Is 9:6-7)

Our Lord and King...
Bethlehem, city of the Most High God, from you will come forth the king of Israel, and he will proceed forth from his eternity and he will be greatly praised in the midst of the entire universe. And there will be peace in our land when he will have come. (cf. Mic 5:2-5)

Our Lord and King...
To be recited or sung on the last day of the novena:
Tomorrow the wickedness of the whole world will be destroyed, and over us will reign the Savior of the world.

R. Our Lord and king is drawing near; O come let us adore him!
V. Near at last is Christ our king; O come let us adore him!

Let the Heavens Be Glad
(Canticle or song-prayer)

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice,
O all you mountains praise the Lord.
Drop down dew from above you heavens,
And let the clouds rain the just one.
Let the earth be opened,
And bud forth the Savior!
Remember us, O Lord,
And visit us in your salvation.
Show your mercy to us, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from the rock in the desert to the Mount of Sion.
Come to free us, O Lord God of hosts;
show your face and we shall be saved.
Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace,
so that we may rejoice before you with a perfect heart.
May we know on earth, O Lord, your way,
your salvation among all nations.
Put forth, O Lord, your strength,
and come to save us.
Come, O Lord, and do not hesitate;
pardon the sins of your people.
O that you would rend the heavens and come down,
the mountains would melt in your presence.
Come and show us your face, O Lord,
you who sit upon the cherubim.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

Let us pray. Christ the Lamb, who existed before time, in time, and exists for all time, will come to us again. He has been made high priest forever. He is the true king of justice and his reign will have no end.

R. Drop down dew from above you heavens and let the clouds rain the just one.
V. Let the earth be opened and bud forth the Savior.

"O Antiphons"

From December 17 to 23, the liturgy uses seven short prayers that have special richness and importance. Known as the "O antiphons" or the "greater antiphons," these prayers compress and express the Old Testament Messianic hope for Christ. These antiphons are read each day at vespers and are used as the alleluia verse of the Advent Masses.

Each antiphon is a mosaic of biblical references, collected and written in a style called anthological. The unknown author of these beautiful prayers lived around the sixth or seventh century. The author chose seven titles whose first letters are S-A-R-C-O-R-E. Read in reverse order, these letters form two Latin words ero cras, meaning "Tomorrow I shall be."

Note: In this edition we are using a poetic translation of the "O antiphons" from the original Latin.


Taken from Favorite Prayers and Novenas, copyright 1996 by Pauline Books and Media. Used with permission.


Return to The Mary Page

This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by J.C. Tierney , was last modified Thursday, 02/19/2009 13:55:13 EST by Victor Pennekamp . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.