Ordinary of the Mass
Madonna and Sleeping Child
Giovanni Battista Salvi (1609-1685)
more commonly known as Sassoferrato.
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
“A Child is
born to us, a Son is given us; upon His shoulder dominion rests. They name
Him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”
One of the most common themes of
Christmas is the discussion of the peace which our Lord is said to bring to the
hearts of men. Yet, if we turn on the radio or the television during this
holiday season, we will, no doubt see scenes and hear accounts of violence—both
at home, and elsewhere throughout the world. In fact, the broadcasters will
probably consider themselves quite clever in presenting this stark contrast as
part of their programs.
But, we don't have to go very far to
discover the reason for this appalling lack of peace. We have a clue in the
Glória, which was sung [recited] just a few minutes ago during this Mass:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.”
“....peace to men of good will.” The inference is pretty clear—men must do
something for their peace—they must become men of good will—which is simply to
say that they must conform their wills to the will of God.
We might say that for this feast of
Christmas to be a feast of peace, it has to become, for us, a feast of the
theological virtues. I say this because it is these virtues which have God as
their object, and which draw us into closer and closer union with Him. And, it
is only in this union with God that we can experience the peace and tranquility
which are proper to His very nature.
This is true, as we say, both
subjectively and objectively. Subjectively, we know that people close to God
can experience peace, even in the midst of terrifying conditions. And
objectively, we know that man without God tends to be very unruly, very
disordered, and anything but peaceful.
Particularly at Christmas, it should be
clear that, in the theological virtues, our Lord presents us with an antidote to
our natural confusion. Faith, Hope, and Charity. The names of these virtues
are so familiar as almost to be a cliché—yet, so often we ignore their meaning
and their importance completely.
When else but at Christmass do we have such an opportunity
to confirm our Faith? Faith is the virtue by which we are strengthened in the
belief of all that God has revealed to us. Often enough, the things of
revelation are hard to appreciate. After all, God is a spirit—therefore, rather
But, here at Christmas, we actually come to witness the
fulfillment of several thousand years of prophecy. After listening to a long
line of the Old Testament prophets—particularly the Prophet Isaias—we can see
that every word spoken through them by God has come true. As He promised, God
sent us our Redeemer. And He was born where He said He would be. And under the
very circumstances described by the prophets.
If we were previously weak in our faith,
this feast of Christmass should banish that. Any clouds of doubt should be,
figuratively, burned away in the radiance of the Christmass star. And, quite
literally, the birth of the Christ-child should assure us that all is exactly as
God promised it would be. Christmass should confirm our faith.
And, when else but at Christmass are we
so confirmed in the virtue of hope? Hope, you will remember is the virtue by
which we expect and trust that almighty God will give us the graces needed to
obtain eternal happiness with Him in heaven.
It is almost impossible not to trust the
infinite God who allowed Himself to take up the helpless and vulnerable form of
a dear sweet baby, lying in a manger in a stable. And, when we reflect upon the
life, and eventual death and resurrection of that little baby, we see clearly
that He has the power to give us all that we need and much more.
Perhaps on a more emotional level, we
can just let the spirit of Christmass permeate our beings. There is, after all,
a certain feeling of hope and well-being which seems to just hang in the
atmosphere during this time of year. If ever, this is the time to let our guard
down a little, and allow that emotion to sway us a little. Pope Saint Leo the
Great once said that “It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life's
This is a day on which to feel good about feeling good. Christmass should clear
away all the clouds of pessimism—Christmass should confirm us in the virtue of
And, finally, we have the virtue of
Charity. Of the three virtues, Charity is the easiest to see in the celebration
of our Lord's birth. Remember, Charity is nothing more or less than the love of
God; and the consequent love of man for the sake of God. It is harder to think
of any act of love greater than the Incarnation, which we celebrate today. Even
our Lord's death for us on the cross—it was only a part of this larger act of
God not only gave His life for us—He
gave His entire being, by taking our nature, and living with us on our own
level. An infinite, eternal, almighty God, took up a body finite, mortal, and
frail—subject to time and change—out of Love. And, by the way, He didn't do it
just for 33 years—He still allows Himself to be summoned down to us, on our
altars, whenever we offer holy Mass; and then He remains a prisoner of Love in
our tabernacles, waiting patiently for our occasional visit.
If there is any one virtue to be
strengthened by this celebration of Christmass, it is surely this third one; the
virtue of Charity. But, really, it would be foolish to think that here on earth
these virtues can exist apart from one another. Just a little bit of reflection
will show that they are all tied into God's goodness in one way or the other.
They are all part of the way in which we relate to the goodness, to the order,
and ultimately, to the peace which we find only in God.
Today is the feast of the Prince of
Peace. It is a day to “feel good about feeling good.” But, it is also a day to
take stock of our spiritual state; to be sure that we are in the state of grace;
to make a good Confession and to receive our newborn Lord in Holy Communion; a
day to exercise and strengthen those three virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
For only in this manner can we enjoy enduring peace; not the peace of the world,
but the peace of Jesus Christ.
MAY HE GRANT YOU
HIS PEACE !