Dear Member of the De La Salle Community:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:5)
Peace. Isn’t this what we all want? We will hear much about peace during this time of Christmas. There is the peace which means the cessation of hostilities in countries plagued by war and civil strife. There is the peace of reconciliation we hope for in broken families and relationships. Today, we seek some peace and quiet from the frenzied pace we keep in our modern world. For those who are often anxious about many things there is the peace of mind that brings calmness and satisfaction.
Then there is the peace brought to us by the Prince of Peace, the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth. How does he bring us peace since we know that it is a peace that the world cannot give us?
The contemporary tendency to place undue emphasis on the idea of ‘Peace on earth to men of goodwill,’ in its most nebulous meaning can take us down the wrong path. As we contemplate with the measured sweetness of the Divine Infant of Bethlehem, we may overlook the more important warning that ‘this child is destined to bring about the fall of many and the rise of many in Israel; to be a sign which men will refuse to acknowledge,’ and that his mother’s soul would be pierced with a sword because of him. Yet all this is part of the same message of goodwill.
We should take notice of the liturgy at this time of year. The very day after the beauty of the liturgy of Christmas Eve and Day, we learn of the martyrdom of St. Stephen. This is followed by the massacre of the Holy Innocents, and the trials of St. Thomas of Canterbury. As we look upon the Christ Child, we forget too easily what he demands of us. He came not to bring peace but a sword, and he has, in fact, divided the world from that day to this by two sharply distinct and antagonistic camps: those who are for him and those who are against him. An overabundance of sentimentality detracts us from this reality.
From his life, death and resurrection we know that there is going to be trouble for those who resist him, just as surely as there is going to be peace and goodwill for those who accept and follow him. It needs to be proclaimed that the tiny babe born in the uninviting stable of Bethlehem is not just a helpless infant. He comes as the hero, the champion, whose mission was to conquer sin, death and evil. There is nothing sentimental about this mission. It is the Church that keeps this season real by her prayer and rituals; trying always to put before us the stark reality of the tremendous importance of our Lord’s coming among us and of the transformative impact -- the definitive and everlasting act of our Redemption.
It is not wrong to look on this season as one of good cheer and the enjoyment of family and friends. It is wrong-minded and dangerous to reduce the Feast of the Incarnation into just another excuse to celebrate and enjoy time off from our regular routine.
May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind us and the world where true and lasting peace and happiness are to be found and may our hearts be filled with the hope and joy needed to do the will of the Saviour whose birth we recall this Christmas.
The blessings of Christmas and the New Year 2019 to all.
Brother Domenic Viggiani, FSC