Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Is Glory to God in the Highest
a Secondary Aspect of Christmas?
Catolicismo, December 1963
THOU dost repose, O Lord, in Thy pitiful and august manger, under the eyes of the Virgin, Thy Mother, which shed the inalienable treasures of their respect and affection over Thee. Never has a creature adored its God with such deep and respectful humility. Never has a motherly heart loved its child more tenderly. Reciprocally, never has God loved a mere creature so much. And never has a son loved his mother so fully, so entirely and so superabundantly. The mtire reality of this sublime dialogue of souls can be contained in those words that Thou wouldst later, on a very different occasion, utter from the height of the Cross but which here indicate an entire ocean of happiness: "Mother, behold thy son. Son, behold thy Mother" (cf. John 19:26‑27). Considering the perfection of this reciprocal love between Thee and Thy Mother we sense the angelic canticle which arises from the depths of every Christian soul: "Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of goodwill" (Luke 2:14).
“On earth peace to men of goodwill”: the complicated but quick array of associations of images makes us immediately recall that on numerous occasions Is by f of this ending year, we have heard talk of peace and men of goodwill. Curiously, we realize that we heard less, and even much less, about glory to God in the highest. To tell the truth, we heard almost nothing about it, not even implicitly. One speaks implicitly of the glory of God when one affirms His sovereign rights over all of creation and, for love of Him, when individuals, families, professional groups, social class regions, nations and the entire international society fulfill His law. Why is there this silence? Why do so many men desire peace so much? Why do so many men claim to have goodwill? And why do so few concern themselves with the glory of God, and pride themselves in working and righting for it?
In other words, is the essential fact of Thy holy Birth, Lord, only peace on earth to men of goodwill? An is glory to God in the highest collateral, distant, confused an insipid aspect for men of th great event of Bethlehem.
Still, in other words, is peac for men worth more than the glory of God? Is the earth worth more than heaven? Is man, then worth more than God? And can peace on earth be obtained, con served and even increased with out having anything to do with the glory of God?
Finally, what is a man of goodwill? Is he a man who only wants peace on earth, indifferent to the glory of God in heaven?
All these questions invite us to a careful analysis of the angelic canticle.
Admirable profundity of every inspired word! The canticle of the angels of Bethlehem is so simple that even a child can understand it, yet it encompasses the most profound truths.
How profitable it is, then, to nourish one's soul with these words to duly participate in the feasts of Holy Christmas!
Help us, Blessed Mother, Seat of Wisdom, with thy prayers, so that enlightened by the brightness that emanates from Jesus, we may understand the angelic canticle, which is the most perfect and authoritative commentary on Christmas.
"Man of goodwill": What does this mean to the eyes of so many of our contemporaries?
To answer this, it suffices to inquire: goodwill with whom? The answer comes impetuously and impatiently, as usually happens when a question has something superfluous about it, asking what is almost evident. "For goodness' sake," many people will say nowadays, "good wil toward your neighbor." One -an atheist or the follower of whatever religion. a supporter of private property, or ofsDciaflsm or communism‑who wants all men to live happily in abundance, wMout sicknesses, without struggles, wkbout risks, getting the most out of this lifc~ this is a man of goodwill.
Seen in this perspective, the man of goodwill is an artificer of peace. As the sa*g goes: "in a house where bread is lacking, everyone quarrels and no one is right." Therefore, where there is bread, them is agreement and peace. Where there is bread, shelter, medicine, security, there is necessarily, with greater reason, peace.
And what about glory to God? For the "man of goodwill" thus conceived, glory to God is a superfluous element reprding peace on earth, because order and, therefore, peace in the social and political life is a result of the adequate ordering of the economy.
"Superfluous" is to say little regarding the glory of God in heaven, considered in light of peace on earth. As some men believe in God and others do not, and as among those who believe there is a diversity in their way of understanding God, this latter can act as a dangerous factor of divisions, discussions and polemics. God has been a lord too involved in polemics for thousands of years to be speaking of Him at every moment. To have peace on earth, it is better not to speak always about God and His glory in heaven.
Besides, heaven is so vague, so faroff, so uncertain! It is understandable that angels speak of it, because they live there, but we men take care of the earth.
The uniting of heavenly glory with earthly peace is, for the "man of goodwill," as erroneous, as superfluous and impregnated with factors of struggle as is, for example, the union of Church and state. The Church free of the state and the state free of the Church is a typical aspiration of the "man of goodwill." Earthly peace free of religious implications, and God in His heaven and His glory with His arms crossed, and smiling at the peaceful earth, at such a distance away that not even Voyager 11 reaches there, this is the ideal of the "man of goodwill."
These are considerations of the "man of goodwill" whose heart is far from heaven, and whose gaze is only concerned with the earth.
Nevertheless, how far they stray from the proper and natural meaning of the angelic canticle!
Really, if Christmas gives glory to God in the highest, and is simultaneously the source of peace on earth for men of goodwill‑and this is what the angels proclaimed in their canticle‑one cannot separate the two things. Unless men give glory to God, there is no peace in the world. And war, in as much as it comes from a guilty aggressor, is incompatible with the glory of God.
Thou, Lord Jesus, God made man, art the Prince of Peace among men. Without Thee, peace is a lie, and, in the end, everything becomes war.
It is because men fail to understand this that they seek for peace in every way, but peace does not dwell among them.
Who, then, is a man of goodwill, if he is not a man who loves his neighbor? Is he perhaps someone who hates his neighbor?
Thou didst ask of the Pharisee who called Thee good Master, "Why dost thou call me good? None is good but God alone" (Luke 18:19).
If God alone is good, authentic goodwill is that which turns everything to God, loving his neighbor not out of mere love of his neighbor, but out of love of God. Man is such that he cannot love his neighbor for the mere fact that he is his neighbor. Either he loves him out of selflove, which is egoism, or he loves him for love of God and this is true love.
Consequently, agnostic "goodwill" and earthly peace, which it strives to arouse, is neither authentic goodwill nor true peace.
And the false "man of goodwill" is in the final analysis a sower of wars and an artificer of ruin.
A But someone could say, how can Jesus be the foundation of peace if no one has aroused as much hatred as He has? The populace He showered with all kinds of spiritual and material favors preferred Barrabas, a bandit, to Him. Is this not hatred? The emperors waged atrocious persecutions against Him. The Arians moved all the powers on earth against Him. Then came the Moslems. And then came all the great successive waves of history, until Nazism and communism. On the other hand, someone will perhaps add, Simeon expressed this truth very well, prophesying that, throughout history, He would be a rock of scandal, a sign of contradiction for the rise and fall of many (cf. Luke 2:34). He Himself said that He would bring the sword to the earth (Matt. 10:34).
However, good all this may be, a man of "goodwill" could argue that true peace, that is, the complete demobilization of souls, the total disappearance not only of all wars, but of all polemics, is not possible with Jesus Christ. Peace is only authentic when it abstracts from all controversies, even those that Jesus Christ brings about‑without any fault of His own, concedes the "man of goodwill."
A man of authentic goodwill, that is, a man who loves God with his whole soul, would ask, is that so?
Is it in jest that the Scriptures call Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), and the Church, echoing the Baptist (John 1:29, 36), presents Him as a meek Lamb to whom men should ask the gift of peace: "Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace"?
Or is it because true peace does not exclude the fight of good against evil, the polemic between the fight and the darkness, the perpetual crushing of the serpent's head by the Immaculate Virgin, the hostility between the race of the Virgin and the race of the Serpent? Peace is the order of Christ in the Reign of Christ. It has, therefore, the fight of the followers of Christ against the enemies of Christ as a condition. The peace of Christ is not identified in any way with the false peace, without rights or polemics, of the pretended "man of goodwill."
Three great lessons, O Infant God, we take from Thy Holy Birth. We learn that there is no peace on earth without Thee; that an authentic man of goodwill does not love a man for his sake; but rather for love of Thee; and finally, that Thy peace includes the disappearance of all fights, except Thy unending and glorious war against the devil and his allies, that is, the world and the flesh.
O Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of all graces, bowed in adoration over the Infant God, obtain for us a complete conviction of all these truths. And permit that, in the perspectives that they reveal, we sing with thee and with all the heavenly and earthly creatures of which thou art the Queen:
"Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of goodwill."