This novena is intended for the nine days leading up to the memorial of the Presentation of the Child Mary in the temple, celebrated November 21. Of course you can pray this any time you like or leading to any of the feasts of Mary’s girlhood.
We don’t usually think of Mary as a little girl in our country though devotion to little Mary is more common in Mexico, Italy and Spain.
To me she represents the way of spiritual childhood, or as St. Therese coined it, The Little Way. We can also consider this Little Way of St. Therese as simply the way Mary lived, with a pure and open heart free for God, a boldness of trust and childlike faith, a spirit of offering and the practice of the presence of God, all rooted in the most free and generous love ever known before that of her Son. Following the Little Way in Mary’s footsteps could be called the Marian Little Way.
So let us spend these nine days with little Mary and let us pray.
Day One: Mary in the Mind of God
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:5a
Before God made Adam, he held Eve hidden in his heart where she lay curled in hidden beauty until the time came for her to be part of life, the mother of life on his beautiful garden planet newly created. After the fall of Adam and Eve God already knew he would bring us the New Eve and Mother of Life. She would be the dawn of our salvation. Until that future sunrise she remained in the depths of the Divine Consciousness like a hidden jewel.
Let us spend some time in her quiet radiance there.
Little Mary, deep in God’s Heart, invite us into those silent depths of Divine Love where we can rest with you.
Pray with Mary a slow, reflective Our Father imagining yourself with her in God.
Day Two: Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Immaculate Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
A fond memory of mine is of teaching my children to meditate. They sat quietly on the floor, little legs crossed, eyes closed. Closing my own eyes I told them to imagine their hearts opening to God’s love like a flower opening to the sun petal by petal. They were silent for a surprising amount of time. I opened my eyes and they were sitting very still in prayer concentrating with peaceful faces. My two little girls were also holding their shirts up. It was hilarious!
As we ponder the child Mary’s profound innocence of heart we can remember too, the simplicity of childhood, it’s freedom and clarity. A pure heart is a simple heart. A simple heart is clear enough for God to shine right into. A heart full of the sunshine of God’s face is also open to God’s light everywhere and in everyone. Mary’s pure and open, simple heart really sees us and she sees us with joy.
Take a moment now and join little Mary in opening your heart petal by petal to let the sunshine of God’s love in to light up every part of it. Then take some time to look at the child Mary and let her look at you.
Little Mary, pure and simple of heart, help us to see the smile of God in all things.
Say to her, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Day Three Birth of Mary
“Who is she who comes forth like the dawn; radiant as the sun, as awe inspiring as an army in battle array?- Song of Songs 6:10
She will crush your head alleluia – Little Office of the Blessed Virgin
A baby girl is born just before sunrise. She comes at the thinnest edge of dawn when stars retain their glitter for a few brief moments and the moon begins its transition to translucence. She is washed by the women of the family helping at the birth, rubbed with salt to protect her from infection, and wrapped snugly. She is handed to her mother and breast fed in flickering lamp light. The women neighbors take up bedding to be cleaned and straighten the house. Every room is full of the love and wonder that attends the birth of a new life. Everyone goes home. The father of the baby meets his child he never thought he would be able to have. He crawls onto the sleeping mat next to his wife and the family sleeps.
But God can’t stop smiling about his secret surprise for the world and every soul he created, past present and future a surprise unfurling in and through the baby now lying between her parents, rooting sleepily for her mother’s breast. Heaven holds it breath. Rose petals drop gently down over the family even as the new father begins to snore.
And God said, “It is good, “ as a ribbon of brightness graced the horizon and the sun began to rise for everyone.
Take a moment now to love and be grateful for the gift of Mary in your life and to everyone everywhere. Feel her baby breath on your face. Smile with Heaven.
Little Mary, you are our life, our sweetness and our hope. I hold you close in my heart.
Day Four: Holy Name of Mary
Your name is ointment poured forth Song of Songs 1:3
I’ve read that in Jewish culture the name of a person is the key to their souls. The naming of a child is prophetic and represents their destiny. We know the Name of Jesus means “Yahweh saves,” which makes perfect sense. We know saying his Name or doing something in His Name has the effect of making him more present. We pray in the Name of Jesus. His is the only Name by which we may be saved. (Acts 4:12)
As Mary is not divine but 100% human, her name is given gracious power is relation to her Son’s. There are several interpretations of Mary’s holy name. “Bitter” is most common which makes sense because of her bitter suffering during the torture and death of Jesus, and her three days of desolate sorrow. “Star of the Sea” is a popular interpretation. It seems to be based on the Latin word for sea which is “mar. ” Mary spoke Aramaic so she would have been called Maryam. This name in Egyptian of the time meant “love,” which is how I have experienced Mary the most so that one is my favorite. What meaning of the name of Mary do you like best?
A spiritual practice of mine that is profoundly helpful to me is repetition of the Names of Jesus and Mary. I do believe saying Mary’s name brings her closer to me and keeps me connected to her. I mentally repeat it during the day, when I wake up and as I am going to sleep; any time I think of it. When I am upset it has a great effect on my state of mind. It helps me come into deeper prayer when I am distracted.
Your name, O Mary, is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of Divine grace. Let this ointment of salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls. [St. Ambrose +397]
Mary would have been named quietly at home and most likely without ceremony although I’m sure with love. She was most likely named after a relative as was customary. I like to think though that she was named after the prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses. This would have made sense since names are prophetic and Jewish parents are seen as cooperating with God in bestowing names on their children. Jesus was the new Moses, leading and freeing his people, and Mary was a new Miriam at his side as his support, raising her voice in praise of God after their deliverance from Egypt much as Mary did in her Magnificat, her song of praise in Luke 1:46-45.
Little Mary, we honor your holy name. Inspire us to pray it many times today with love, staying close to you. May your name be a precious ointment poured into the hidden recesses of our souls. Ave Ave Ave little Maria.
Day Five: As a child has rest
Truly I have set my soul in silence and in peace as a child has rest in [her] mother's arms, even so my soul. - Psalm 131:2
You have been invited to dinner at Joachim and Anne’s house. When you come in, you see their little girl playing in the courtyard where her mother says she has been all afternoon with the other kids. She runs into the house with a gaggle of them screaming and laughing and you can’t help but smile. Mary is filthy and her dress is frayed. Mother Anne dismisses the other children, washes her little girl’s face, hands and feet carefully and has her help to serve dinner.
All of you smile at Mary’s childish patter and even more as she grows sleepy, speaking more and more hapharzardly and slowly until she crawls into her mother’s lap, almost asleep.
As Joachim recites a Psalm, Little Mary gazes at you contentedly from her mother’s arms. Maybe you were worried about something or burdened with some sorrow. Somehow you can’t remember what it was and are happy just to sit peacefully and look back at Mary.
Let’s settle in and listen to Joachim’s voice as we smile at his little girl.
O Lord, my heart is not proud,
Nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
Nor marvels beyond me.
Truly I have set my soul
In silence and in peace,
As a child has rest in [her] mother’s arms,
Even so my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord forever.
In the prayerful silence that follows, Mary’s eyes gently close. You feel her little hand in yours and close your eyes too, to pray.
Day 6 Learning to Pray with Little Mary
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6
She wants you to hold her and when you do, she messes up your hair. “You need to pray,” she says. She waits. “Go ahead. Pray.” Maybe you ask her, “What do you want me to pray?” To this she asks to be put down. “Stand like this by me.” When you do, she pulls your head down to her level, making you crouch. She becomes very solemn and and you can’t help but smile. Mary puts your hands over your eyes, telling you, “Don’t look on the outside, look on the inside.”
She says, in her sweet child’s voice, “Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad.” She gives you a shove. “You’re not looking in!”
So now try, really try to turn within yourself where the Lord truly lives and try again.
Say with her,
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is OneDt. 6:4
She goes over the rest with you, nudging you any time you start to open your eyes. She tells you she prays this daily with her family, that everyone does. “But you have to be quiet in your heart and look inside.” Once she knows you have paid close attention to the words you are saying and to Whom you are saying them, she throws her arms around you, kissing your face.
Day 7: Being Little
Let the children come to me for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14
We forget to be little before God. Remembering brings a joyful peace because it really is that simple. We complicate things and create obstacles for ourselves that aren’t true. Spending time with the child Mary and adopting her approach to life and the love of God gives us a clarity we lacked before. When the archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary she needed only to understand what was being asked of her to embrace it. God was everything to her and all she wanted. She trusted completely, bold and brave and sweet before God as the Holy Spirit ruffled her hair and Jesus stole her heart. She was glad to be small and humble; seeing herself as God’s littlest. She didn’t change at the Annunciation. She had always been this way from childhood.
Let’s remember that we are God’s littlest children so we can find the clearest sweetest peace by living in his heart letting ourselves be loved.
Child Mary help me to understand myself as little and dear that I may love God with bold trust and complete freedom.
Day 8 The Way of Spiritual Childhood with Mary
Day 9 Consecration
At this writing today we celebrate the memorial of the Presentation of the Child Mary in the Temple. This was Mary’s consecration.
Let’s consecrate ourselves to God through and with her.
Find some quiet time you can spend with the child Mary. Let her throw her arms around you. Say to her, “O Mary I give you my heart, my hands, all of me, my whole life is yours. Do with me and build with me what you will, that I may run up the steps of the Temple with you into the arms of God.