What does “Novena” mean? Why is there this and that “Novena” on the occasion of this and that Feasts in the Church? And how come there is the now on-going “Novena” of Holy Masses in preparation for Christmas Day? These are questions that people – the Catholics in particular – do not ask but simply do it. They just do it – no questions asked, no answers given. But even for boys and girls, it is good to ask in order to know the answer somehow. Here in the Philippines, Catholics make Novenas to the Good Lord and/or to this and that Saint. This they do in order to have an ardent plea heard, to obtain a special favor needed, to be granted a particular blessing. But the question remains: What is a “Novena”?
By the way, why is the Christmas Novena so popular particularly in this Country – Holy Masses are celebrated either quite late at night or rather early in the morning in which case, the Novena is called Misa de Gallo? Without forgetting the question “What is a Novena?” in general, and what is a Christian Novena in particular, let it be said first that the said observance of the “Misa de Gallo” has something special to say about the Filipinos. This: During the Spanish stay in the Philippines, the Christmas Novena was already a popular observance. But given the fact then that the Filipino farmers slept late after a day’s work in the fields but woke up early in the morning they day after, they preferred to have the Christmas Novena held early in the morning when the cocks – “Gallo” – crowed. After every early morning Mass, they went to the fields early as well to work on their farms.
Again: What is a Christmas Novena? Answer: The word Novena comes from the Latin word “Novem” which means nine. Conclusion: Christmas Novena then means the holding of a Holy Mass – the sacrifice of Christ – for nine days. Question: Why precisely nine times or nine days? Answer: Because it took nine months for Christ to be born – nine months stay in the womb of Mary. So it is that the most precious and most treasured Gift of God to mankind – Christ – came from His conception to his Birth nine months after His conception in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary. In other words, Christ became God’s Gift to mankind nine months after His conception by Mary, His Mother.
So it is that the Christmas Novena – nine days of special prayer, nine days of fervent supplication asking for a particular favor from God – became a practice in the Church as far back as the seventh century. Since then, when Catholics felt they need a big favor, they are seeking special grant, they earnestly pray for nine consecutive days to have said favor or blessing eventually received. So it is that one rather popular Novena in the Philippines is the well-known and observed Novena to St. Jude – fondly known as the Saint of the impossible which precisely becomes possible through a Novena asking for St. Jude’s intervention.
While Christmas Novena is on-going all the over the Country and whereas so many people need so many special favor from the Good Lord, it might not be superfluous for them to pray also for the precious grant of honest, competent and industrious public officials go lead the Country – now that the 2016 election is in sight. Such a grant is definitely precious whereas the People of the Philippines have been craving for such qualified individuals in government for some time now. What a grant that would be for the people! What a favor that would be for the Country!