An Advent novena for priests
By Roxanne King
Next week, the faithful are invited to recite a special novena to Mary under the title “Our Lady of the New Advent” and to offer the prayers for priests.
In the Denver Archdiocese, Dec. 16 is the feast of Our Lady of the New Advent. The nine-day novena would take place on the days leading up to and including the feast
“On the liturgical calendar of the Archdiocese of Denver, which has been approved by the Holy See, the days from Dec. 8 through the 16th are ‘Days of Prayer to Mary,’” explained Msgr. Edward Buelt, pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Church in Foxfield and a member of the Presbyteral Council. “It seems most appropriate that in this Year for Priests the ‘Days of Prayer to Mary’ be dedicated as ‘Days of Prayer to Mary for Priests.’”
The archdiocese’s Year for Priests activities committee, which is led by Auxiliary Bishop James Conley, agreed. The faithful are therefore invited to pray the novena (see box on Page 13) either alone or with family or friends, at home or at their parish.
The Year for Priests, which began June 19 and runs through the same date next year, was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to encourage priests to recommit themselves to their priestly vocation and as an occasion for the laity to pray for and support priests in their ministry.
The Our Lady of the New Advent prayer, which was composed by the Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga located in Virginia Dale, Colo., complements an icon created by Jesuit Father William Hart McNichols for the archdiocese 18 years ago at the request of then-archbishop, now Cardinal J. Francis Stafford.
Father McNichols, 60, is the son of former Colorado Gov. Stephen and Marjory McNichols. Born in Denver he has resided in New Mexico since 1990, where he works as an iconographer.
In the Our Lady of the New Advent icon, Mary is dressed in purple and holds her hands up in the orans posture of prayer in a gesture of intercession. The Christ Child, who shines forth from within her, holds a Columbine flower in his left hand. Behind the expectant mother, the Rocky Mountains rise up out of the Colorado plains.
The symbolism found in Our Lady of the New Advent makes her a particularly appropriate title under which to pray for priests.
The purple worn by Mary, Msgr. Buelt told the Denver Catholic Register in 1991, is the color for Advent and is used in the Scriptures to represent the dignity of the priesthood.
“The Virgin’s purple robes represent the fact that the laity, too, are dressed in purple because they exercise a true priesthood by virtue of their baptism,” Msgr. Buelt said, referring to the universal priesthood of the Christian whose witness, work and trials may be offered as a sacrifice of praise and intercession to sanctify the world.
“The Christ Child is within the mother’s being” he added, “because the universal priesthood of the baptized, as represented by Mary, is meant to nurture the particular priesthood of the ordained, as represented by Christ.”
At the same time, continued Msgr. Buelt, those ordained to the ministerial priesthood are to serve the universal priesthood of the baptized.
The Columbine the Christ Child holds is the state flower for Colorado and is an ancient iconographic symbol of the Holy Spirit.
“Columba is Latin for ‘dove,’” explained Father McNichols by phone from his office in Ranchos de Taos, N.M.
The single stem of the Columbine in the icon symbolizes the one true God and the three blossoms the persons of the Holy Trinity. Greek lettering on the icon identifies Mary as the “Mother of God” and Christ as the “Son of God.”In the Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent, one implores: “O Lady and Mother of the One who was and is and is to come, dawn of the New Jerusalem, we earnestly beseech you, bring us by your intercession so to live in love that the Church, the Body of Christ, may stand in this world’s dark as fiery icon of the New Jerusalem.”
The “dark” the prayer mentions is not only the darkness of hatred, sin and evil in the world, but also the darkness of winter. With its short days and long, cold nights, winter can be difficult and depressing for many people as it compounds the other tribulations one experiences.
“It’s the darkest time of the year,” noted Father McNichols.
But we can take heart and find consolation in the holy season of Advent with its beautiful reminder of the salvation and new life won out of love for us by Christ—“the light of the world” (Jn 8:12)—which urges us to look with hopeful expectancy for his return at the end of time.
“The darkness of Advent,” Father McNichols asserted, “is therefore not the darkness of despair but the darkness of pregnancy and waiting for rebirth.”
The Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent is especially good to offer for priests as their ministry calls for them to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and his love to the people, Fathr McNichols said.
“The priest is the bearer of the Gospel and the Gospel is the light to all nations,” he said. “To bring the light of new birth, new Advent, during a dark time is the vocation of the priest.”
Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent
O Lady and Mother
of the One who was and is
and is to come,
dawn of the New Jerusalem,
we earnestly beseech you,
bring us by your intercession
so to live in love that the Church,the Body of Christ,
may stand in this world’s dark
as fiery iconof the New Jerusalem.
We ask you to obtain for us
this mercy through Jesus Christ,
your Son and Lord,
who lives and reigns
with the Father
in the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.
Closing Hymn: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
Optional: Scripture readings suggested by Father William McNichols to precede the prayers may be found online at http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/andre/sj_nov2.html or call 303-715-3215.
For more information about Father McNichols and his icons, visit http://www.standreirublevicons.com/.