The Christmas Anticipation Prayer places us at the “hour and moment” when Christ was born. The prayer reminds us of St. Ignatius’ method of meditation. St. Ignatius taught us to place ourselves in the Gospels, as if we were actually there. Then he asks us to see what Christ tells us, how we would respond, and what we desire. The prayer talks about the birth of baby Jesus in the piercing cold. Those few short lines of this traditional prayer puts us in the cave at Bethlehem.
While called a novena, this prayer is not a typical nine-day recitation, but starts on the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30. It ushers in Advent and helps us continue our walk toward Christmas for 25 days.
The prayer gives us beautiful imagery but with antique language that is not often used.
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 the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, 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
Let’s take a deeper look at these phrases.
What does the Christmas Anticipation Prayer Mean?
“Blessed be” means that this event is deeply holy. It is a holy event that happened on a historical timeline taking place, “at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.” We can kneel beside the crib, awaiting the birth like Mary and Joseph.
Here’s a few other ways to understand the prayer:
- “Vouchsafe” means to grant something in a gracious manner. It is about what God does for us. It is at this part in the prayer that we ask for a specific intention, “Through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.”
- This act of trust tells us our desires are safe with God, just as Mary knew God’s desires for her could be trusted — “Let it be done to me according to thy Word,” (Luke 1:38).
- It calls our attention to the fact that Jesus through His sacrifice saved all, and Mary’s “yes” is a complete adherence to the Father’s will, to His Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit. “By pronouncing her ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 967, 973)
A True Focus for Advent
The four weeks of Advent gives us many Catholic traditions to build a reservoir of peace during one of the most hectic times of the year. The Christmas Anticipation Prayer helps us focus on what all our Advent preparations mean. It gives voice to our deepest desires for our own needs, family, the world and our Church.
The prayer invokes the Virgin Mary to be our companion on this blessed journey to the birth of Her Son: Emmanuel, Wonder-Counselor, God the Mighty, and the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
By memorizing this prayer we get a chance to embrace the birth of God’s only son. We get to walk beside the shepherds who heard the angels’ proclamation. We can share in the Virgin Mary’s and St. Joseph’s joy.
Why 15 times?
While it’s a short prayer– it requires daily effort. There are no sources that explain why to recite it 15 times. We can only speculate, but the number 15 signifies a new direction in the Scriptures.
It is also the day of the Jewish Feast Days of the Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. In the Gospel of Matthew, it’s recorded that the sun was setting on the 15th of Nisan when Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb in the garden.
In reality, no one knows why 15 times. It has been handed down as part of tradition.
Get your copy of the Christmas Anticipation Prayer.