"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 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 Gloria, 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.
On Faith, Hope, and Charity.
When else but at Christmas 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 -- rather imperceptible.
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, 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 Christmas should banish that. Any clouds of doubt should be, figuratively, burned away in the radiance of the Christmas star. And, quite literally, the birth of the Christ-child should assure us that all is exactly as God promised it would be. Christmas should confirm our faith.
And, when else but at Christmas 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 Christmas 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 Leo the Great once said that "It would be unlawful to be sad today, for today is Life's birthday." This is a day on which to feel good about feeling good. Christmas should clear away all the clouds of pessimism -- Christmas should confirm us in the virtue of Hope.
An, 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 Love.
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 -- 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 Mass; and 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 Christmas, 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 3 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 !