As head honcho of this esteemed blog I am closing Blog Towers so that we can all start the Christmas celebrations nice and early.
Whether you are a practising Christian or not, I thought that the following extract from Pope John XXIII's Christmas message may even today have some resonance, especially with what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pope gave this message on 23 December 1959, when I was 10 weeks old!
The appearance of peace is threefold:
Peace of the heart:
Peace is before all else an interior thing, belonging to the spirit, and its fundamental condition is a loving and filial dependence on the will of God. "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless till it rests in Thee" (St. Augustine's Confessions, 1, I, 1, 1, P.L., 32, 661).
All that weakens, that breaks, that destroys this conformity and union of wills is opposed to peace. First of all and before all is wrongdoing, sin. "Who hath resisted him and hath had peace?" (Job 9:4). Peace is the happy legacy of those who keep the divine law. "Much peace have they who love thy law" (Psalms 118:165).
For its part, good will is only the sincere determination to respect the eternal laws of God, to conform oneself to His commandments and to follow His paths—in a word, to abide in the truth. This is the glory which God expects to receive from man. "Peace to men of good will."
This is solidly based on the mutual and reciprocal respect for the personal dignity of man. The Son of God was made man, and His redeeming act concerns not only the collectivity, but also the individual man.
He "loved me and gave himself up for me." Thus spoke St. Paul to the Galatians (Gal. 2:20). And if God has loved man to such a degree, that indicates that man is of interest to Him and that the human person has an absolute right to be respected.
Such is the teaching of the Church which, for the solution of these social questions, has always fixed her gaze on the human person and has taught that things and institutions—goods, the economy, the state—are primarily for man; not man for them.
The disturbances which unsettle the internal peace of nations trace their origins chiefly to this source: that man has been treated almost exclusively as a machine, a piece of merchandise, a worthless cog in some great machine or a mere productive unit.
It is only when the dignity of the person comes to be taken as the standard of value for man and his activities that the means will exist to settle civil discord and the often profound divisions between, for example, employers and the employed. Above all, it is only then that the means will exist to secure for the institution of the family those conditions of life, work and assistance which are capable of making it better directed to its function as a cell of society and the first community instituted by God Himself for the development of the human person.
No peace will have solid foundations unless hearts nourish the sentiment of brotherhood which ought to exist among all who have a common origin and are called to the same destiny. The knowledge that they belong to the same family extinguishes lust, greed, pride and the instinct to dominate others, which are the roots of dissensions and wars. It binds all in a single bond of higher and more fruitful solidarity.
The basis of international peace is, above all, truth. For in international relations, too, the Christian saying is valid: "The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
It is necessary, then, to overcome certain erroneous ideas: the myths of force, of nationalism or of other things that have prevented the integrated life of nations. And it is necessary to impose a peaceful living together on moral principles, according to the teaching of right reason and of Christian doctrine.
Along with this, and enlightened by truth, should come justice. This removes the causes of quarrels and wars, solves the disputes, fixes the tasks, defines the duties and gives the answer to the claims of each party.
Justice in its turn ought to be integrated and sustained by Christian charity. That is, love for one's neighbor and one's own people ought not to be concentrated on one's self in an exclusive egotism which is suspicious of another's good. But it ought to expand and reach out spontaneously toward the community of interests, to embrace all peoples and to interweave common human relations. Thus it will be possible to speak of living together, and not of mere coexistence which, precisely because it is deprived of this inspiration of mutual dependence, raises barriers behind which nestle mutual suspicion, fear and terror.
However you will be celebrating Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful peaceful time with good company, good food and very light hangovers.