Written by Anna Krohn, National Bioethics Convenor
Pope Benedict draws together very skillfully the biblical, liturgical and spiritual themes which evoke the patient waiting and yet the fierce wakefulness of the expectant mother. "During the Season of Advent we shall feel the Church which takes us by the hand- and in the image of Mary Most Holy, expresses her motherhood..."
We are reminded of just how dangerous having a baby is by the Biblical story of Jesus' on months in the womb. His mother and step father reminds already felt the clash two very different ways of seeing the world and people. Bishop Anthony Fisher (of Parramatta) spoke at his diocese's vigil of nascent life: "There is more and worse. There is a plot to kill the baby, hatched by a power crazed king. The family must flee as refugees... In Advent creation is pregnant with hope of new life but there are those who would terminate that hope."
Pope John Paul II- introduced on a large scale the mission of the Church to witness to a "culture of life". Pope Benedict XVI continues on this mission but ties the centrality of prayer, liturgy and shared worship into the foundations established by his predecessor.
He calls all people "of life" to gather in adoration and the recitation of the psalms rather than to a public rally. This reminds us of another of the Pope's central concerns- that we realize we can do nothing- not even the great good of defending life without allowing our own hearts to be transformed by the compassion of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit.
For Pope Benedict, liturgy means engagement with not withdrawal from the philosophical and cultural struggle. In fact the liturgy is the fire which ignites the hearts of those take the love of God outwards. The Vigil "for nascent life" is directed four square to modern man and woman and especially at secular culture and institutions.. "we are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limitations of our material condition.."
Benedict declares this Advent as a time for prayerful vigil of the 'nascent' Saviour and at the same time the ecclesial and global vigilance for all unborn and frail human life. There is no escaping the timeliness of this. To believe in Jesus Christ means to see all human beings as intrinsically valuable. This is not a private belief. Benedict calls for all Christians and people of good will to reach out and strike a chord in "the understanding and wanting" (the hearts AND minds) of all other people so that they can see this too.