Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Gathered 'round the Manger
O Legionário, Sao Paulo (Brazil), December 22, 1946 (*)
Once again, Lord, Christmas approaches. Christianity hastens again to adore Thee in the manger at Bethlehem, where Thou can be seen by the light of the twinkling star or under the brighter and more splendorous light of the maternal and sweet gaze of Mary. Saint Joseph stands nearby, so captivated by Thee that he seems to take notice neither of the animals that surround Thee, nor of the angels who have opened the heavens and can be heard and seen, singing in the highest. In a short while, the Magi will arrive with their entourage, laden with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Through the centuries, others will also come to venerate Thy crib: from India, Ancient Nubia, Macedonia, Rome, Carthage, and Spain; Gauls, Franks, Germans, Angles, Saxons, and Normans. Both pilgrims and crusaders will come from the West to kiss the ground of the cave where Thou were born. Your manger will be venerated all over the earth. In the great Gothic or Romanesque cathedrals, multitudes will gather around Thee, offering Thee presents of gold, silver, incense, and above all the piety and sincerity of their hearts.
Then will come the period of the Western discoveries in which the benefits of Thy Redemption will reach new lands. Incas, Aztecs, natives of various tribes, blacks from African shores or further inland, bronze-skinned Indians, slender and pensive Chinese, short and agile Nipponese, all will gather around Thy crib and adore Thee. The star of Bethlehem now shines over the whole world. The angelic promise has been heard by all peoples, and all across the earth hearts of goodwill have found the inestimable treasure of Thy peace. Overcoming all obstacles, the gospel has finally spread to people all over the world. In the midst of contemporary desolation, this great gathering of people from all nations and races around Thee is our only consolation, indeed our only hope.
We are among them, kneeling before Thee. See us, Lord, and have pity on us. There is something we would like to say.
Who are we? We are those who will not kneel before the modern Baal. We carry Thy law engraved upon the bronze of our hearts and we do not allow the errors of our times to become engraven upon this bronze sanctified by Thy Redemption. We love the immaculate purity of orthodoxy above all else and reject any pact whatsoever with heresy, its wiles and infiltrations. We are merciful to the repentant sinner, and since —due to our unworthiness and infidelity— we count ourselves among that number, we implore Thy mercy. We spare no criticism either, of insolent and conceited impiety or of strutting vice that scorns virtue. We pity all men, particularly the blessed who suffer persecution for love of the Church, who are oppressed everywhere because they hunger and thirst for virtue, who are abandoned, ridiculed, betrayed, and disdained because they remain faithful to Thy commandments. Many are those whose suffering is not celebrated in contemporary literature: the Christian mother who will pray alone before Thy crib because her children no longer practice the Faith; the strong yet austere husband who is misunderstood or even loathed by his own due to his fidelity to Thy teachings; the faithful wife who bears the solitude of both heart and soul, because frivolous habits have led to adultery he who should be her support, her “other half”; the pious son or daughter who—while Christian homes are celebrating—sense how in their own home, family life has been stifled by egotism, hedonism, and secularism; the student who is shunned and mocked by his colleagues because of his fidelity to Thee; the professor who is eschewed by fellow staff because he will not condone their errors; the parish priest or bishop around whom a menacing wall of misunderstanding or indifference has been raised because he refuses to compromise the integrity of the doctrine entrusted to his care; the honest man made penniless for refusing to swindle.
All of these isolated people, scattered across the globe, ignorant of each other, now gather around Thee to offer Thee a gift and a prayer.
Their gift exceeds the sun and the stars, the oceans with all its riches, and the earth in all its splendor: they give themselves entirely and faithfully. By preferring complete orthodoxy over approval, purity over popularity among the impure, honesty over gold; by remaining faithful to Thy law even when this entails sacrificing career and fame, they attain perfection in their spiritual life by practicing love of God above all things, which is a sincere and lasting love. Such love differs greatly from love as it is understood nowadays, which predominantly consists of gushy and illogical feelings, senseless and blurry affections, obscure self-condescension and trite justifications to appease one’s conscience. Instead theirs is true love, enlightened by Faith, justified by reason, serious, chaste, upright and persevering—in a word, theirs is love of God.
They also offer a prayer. Before all else—because they love it above all else in this world—for Thy holy and immaculate Church: for both the pastors and the flock; foremost, for the pastor of the pastors of the flock, that is for Peter, whom today we call Pius [XII]. May the Church, which now moans as a captive in the dungeons of this anti-Christian “civilization”, finally triumph over this era of sin and implant a new civilization for Thy greater glory. May the saints become ever holier, may the good be sanctified, may sinners become good, and may the impious convert. May the impenitent who have rejected grace and are jeopardizing souls be dispersed, humbled, and their efforts frustrated. May the souls in purgatory rise to heaven straight away.
They also pray for themselves: may their orthodoxy be ever purer, their purity ever more rigorous. May they be more faithful amidst adversity, stand ever taller amidst humiliations, be more energetic in their struggles. May they be more terrible to the impious, yet more compassionate towards those who are ashamed of their sins, seriously strive to overcome them and publicly acclaim virtue.
Finally, they pray for Thy Grace, without which no will can durably persevere in good, and no soul can be saved; may it be more abundant in proportion to the number of their miseries and infidelities.
(*) The above article has been translated and adapted for publishing without author’s revision. –Ed. American TFP.