On Saturday evening, the Eve of the First Sunday of Advent, a goodly throng took part in a special vigil for all nascent life, which included vespers, a bilingual homily (the English portions follow below), adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Photos were taken afterwards, some of which are posted below.
Yesterday, I found on the web the prayer for all nascent life offered by the Holy Father. It follows the photos.
VIGIL OF FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT—November 27, 2010—CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF NOTRE DAME, OTTAWA [Text: First Thessalonians 5: 23-24]
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
As you all know, we’re here tonight because we received a very important invitation. Pope Benedict has asked Bishops around the world to observe in their dioceses a Vigil for unborn human life on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent.
And it is no coincidence that the Holy Father asks us to pray for the beginnings of human life just as we begin our preparations to receive the Christ Child, Jesus, our Redeemer.
In a few moments we will pray and meditate on “The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary”. These Mysteries remind us how God’s plan for our salvation was being worked out, step by grace-filled step, from Gabriel’s message to the Virgin at the Annunciation to the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
These Mysteries of Christ’s first moments in Mary’s womb, through his birth and young adulthood encourage us to reflect not only on the Incarnation: tonight we may also contemplate the gift and mystery of conception and birth; we ponder in prayer the need for all human life to be welcomed, nurtured and loved within the family.
Contemplating the Joyful Mysteries connects naturally to our Advent preparations. In many churches throughout the world pastors and enthusiastic lay people are getting Christmas crèches ready for display: the animals are being counted and inspected – the donkey, the cow, the sheep and even the camel of the Magi are given a careful once over. Figurines of the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, Mary and Joseph are being arranged thoughtfully in the crèche.
A manger is being positioned very carefully in the very centre. It is important to place the manger just so in order that it is the focal point of this dramatic scene. We come to the crèche to see the infant Jesus Christ helpless in that humble animal feedbox; thirty-three years later he will be held on a different wooden structure – the Cross.
The figurine of a newborn baby reminds us of God’s great love for us and for the world: God so loved the world that He gave us his only Son so that we might have abundant life. Jesus was born into a family and experienced the reality of human life in every way but sin: truly we have a Savior who has walked our walk. For many of us preparing the Christmas crèche at home helps us focus on this great mystery.
It is hard to appreciate fully the miracle of the incarnation: hard to realize that God values human life so much that He would let His Son experience the total human reality, from conception to death, from start to finish. When we look at the tiny Christ Child in the manger we mustn’t forget that the first place where he was loved, kept safe was his mother’s womb. Before he was placed in a manger he rested beneath his mother’s heart, where he grew and matured, waiting for the joyful, miraculous, moment of his birth.
Sometimes, we can even play down the trying circumstances surrounding his coming into the world: the irregular pregnancy, the uncertain future of his humble family life, the poverty into which he was born, and his family’s need to flee persecution and death as refugees to a foreign land to make a new life.
Sadly, the sanctity of human life is not always recognized or protected in our world. Conditions exist which make it difficult for many people to receive and treasure human life: poverty, brokenness in relationships, mental and physical illness, and even selfishness all discourage the joyful welcome of the gift of human life.
Our whole culture can become jaded; we can forget that each human life is a miraculous gift from God. With great hubris we imagine that we are the authors of life in the lab; we can lose sight of the fact that from the first moment of conception we are much, much more than a mere collection of cells. From the moment of his or her conception, every human being is a unique expression of God’s love and on-going creation in the world. God reminds in the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens, who by myself spread out the earth” (Isaiah 44.24).
In a child, we see proof of God’s creative and generous love. How many parents here tonight gazed in wonder, awe and thanksgiving at your newborn child?
The human person is a marvelous creation, “whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body” as Paul reminds us tonight. This precious, fragile, human life is first nurtured and experiences the love of mother and father in the womb. Every nascent human life has inherent dignity and deserves love as a marvelous expression of the image and likeness of God.
In the intercessions this evening we will beseech God: “Your Son ennobled all human life when he became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Enlighten our minds to see the dignity of every human life from its earliest embryonic beginnings.”
As we eagerly await our annual celebration of the birth of the child Jesus, let us pray for the grace to welcome every human life, from its very beginning in the womb, with reverence, wonder, and joy.
The conception and birth of Jesus teaches us that God values all of our humanity – body, spirit and soul; let us pray tonight that we will respect, value and protect the fullness of human life from the moment of conception until its natural end.
May God bless you and may Mary, the Mother of God, comfort you with her maternal love.
The Holy Father's Prayer at the Vigil for All Nascent Life
Lord Jesus, You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence the Church and the history of men;You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.
Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life, truly present and alive among us, we beg you:
Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life, make us capable of seeing in the fruit of a mother's womb the miraculous work of the Creator, open our hearts to generously welcoming every child that comes into life.
Bless all families, sanctify the union of spouses, make fruitful their love.
Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies with the light of your Spirit,so that peoples and nations may recognise and respect the sacred nature of life, of every human life.
Guide the work of scientists and doctors, so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person, and no one endures suppression or injustice.
Gift creative charity to administrators and economists, so they may realise and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace the birth of new children.
Console married couples who suffer because they are unable to have children and in Your goodness provide for them.
Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children, so they may experience the warmth of your Love,
the consolation of your divine Heart.
Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer, in whose womb you took on our human nature, we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior, the strength to love and serve life, in anticipation of living forever in You, in communion with the Blessed Trinity.