With the start of Advent, Catholics begin using a new translation of the Mass. Along with this there are two brand new texts for a Mass "For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life." This is the result of a long process that actually started with Cardinal John O'Connor of New York over twenty years ago.
The opening prayer for the first of these masses reads as follows:
God our Creator,
we give thanks to you,
who alone have the power to impart the breath of life
as you form each of us in our mother's womb;
grant, we pray,
that we, whom you have made stewards of creation,
may remain faithful to this sacred trust
and constant in safeguarding the dignity
of every human life.
Drawing images from Genesis 2:7 and Psalm 139, the prayer affirms that only God can create. Parents cooperate with his creative power, but the conception of each new life is a direct choice and act of God. He alone owns human life -- not parents, nor doctors, nor government -- and he alone can take it.
Our role, as the prayer indicates, is to carry out a "sacred trust" as "stewards." In "The Gospel of Life," Blessed John Paul II said it this way: "Yes, every man is his 'brother's keeper', because God entrusts us to one another" (EV, 19). Some think it's none of their business to defend the life of someone else's child. But God Himself makes it our business. The child scheduled to be killed today by abortion is our brother, our sister, our sacred trust.
We safeguard human life in a variety of ways, including speaking words of encouragement, teaching, assisting parents, and shaping public policy. This mass text is especially appropriate to use in pro-life gatherings of those who work in the legislative and political arena.
The opening prayer for the second of these masses reads,
O God, who adorn creation with splendor and beauty
and fashion human lives in your image and likeness,
awaken in every heart
reverence for the work of your hands,
and renew among your people
a readiness to nurture and sustain
your precious gift of human life.
Echoing the imagery of Psalm 104 and drawing from Genesis 1:26, this prayer focuses on how human life itself reflects the image of the Creator, and therefore should evoke in our hearts a reverence and awe which should outweigh any fear in welcoming or defending human life.
This Mass is especially appropriate to use in gatherings of those who assist moms and dads in pregnancy centers, and who do spiritual and educational work in the pro-life movement. The reverence for the work of God's hands feeds the love which is expressed in that "readiness to nurture and sustain" human life. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, "The mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts" (Prayer Breakfast, 1994).
Let's use these new Mass texts often!