St Andrew the First Called
(for St. Andrew Christmas Novena - starts on 30 November)
“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 Lord Jesus Christ and of His
Blessed Mother . Amen”
This Novena is said to be at least 100 years old, and you feel it, the way it’s is written.
The mention of the piercing cold at midnight, really brings the “real” Christmas to you.
When I was a theology student in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1976-79) we had to take on some kind of outside apostolate or learning experience that would somehow, prepare us for the priesthood. I chose to work on a suicide hotline and walk in service called “The Samaritans” originally founded in London by an Episcopal priest. He was apparently a great counselor and people sat in his office waiting to talk with him. One day someone came in and said, “Its okay Father, I don’t need to talk, the lady sitting next to me in your office really helped me.” After that, he decided to train people to listen and speak with one another, that was the beginning of The Samaritans. In the training we were told that you cannot proselytize, you have to find something inside yourself that can reach the one on the other end. We could not use our last name, but if a person wanted to talk with you on your shift, they could ask for Bill 249 (my number). The great thing for me was listening to the other volunteers and the way they helped people, some were incredibly funny, some deeply serious - in other words, it’s the “real You” that heals. The worst nights of the year were all around the holidays. Everyone thinks that people are all having a “Currier and Ives” or a “Norman Rockwell Christmas,” and they alone, are in darkness and depression. One Christmas Eve I did an overnight and the phones rang non-stop from dark until the first glimpse of light on Christmas Day. But listen to the prayer, “...at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.” The prayer is to be said 15 times a day which you can break up by saying it 5 times in the morning, 5 times around noon, and 5 times at night.
Recently I read that Pope Francis asked priests to respect people’s devotions, and not get too intellectual or snobbish about simple longing- prayers from the heart.
This icon was a present to my great author-friend, Andrew Krivak from his wife Amelia.
I was really aware while painting (writing) the icon that it’s the Child Jesus (in icons called Christ Emmanuel) who is present above St Andrew, who was one of the first called by Jesus in the Gospel narrative...something to think about or contemplate in this Advent Season.
Abundant Blessings...........and I know the Child will call (is calling) you too!
“Unpleasant though it may be, the sense of personal sin is precisely that which keeps our sin from getting out of hand. It is quite painful at times, but it is a very great blessing because it is our one and only effective safeguard against our own proclivity for evil.
St Therese of Lisieux put it so nicely in her gentle way:
“If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.”
From “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil” 1983,
by M.Scott Peck, MD (1936-2005)
Fr Bill McNichols