Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermons for Christmas (Midnight Mass): War is raging everywhere, but Christ brings peace.


Midnight Mass 

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau 
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault 
Fontgombault, December 25th, 2021 

Apparuit gratia Dei. 
The grace of God hath appeared. 
(Titus 2:11) 
Dear Brothers and Sisters, 
My dearly beloved Sons, 

In communion with millions of Christians spread all over the earth, we are gathered in the dead of winter and in the middle of the night to remember a birth. We have not learned this birth by a registrar’s office; it is another book that bears witness to this birth, a book called the Gospel, the Evangelion, a Greek word meaning Good News. 

As a matter of fact, every birth is a good news. But it is in a very special way that this birth is such, since it is the birth of a savior. The good news the Gospel tells us is that today is born He who is going to operate the reconciliation of man with God: God made man, so that man may become God, namely, may live with God’s own life, may live in communion with God. The good news of the Gospel is not merely the news of a birth, but the news that the time of the fulfillment of mankind’s salvation, the time of victory of good over evil, has now opened. A virgin just gave birth to a son. She gave him the name of Jesus, namely, Savior. 

This good news comes to us from a poor and isolated stable, unknown in the dark of night. Thirty-three years from now, it will again be offered to the world, from the height of a cross, where He who is born today to the light of earth will then give His life, as a token of His love for men. Born alone near Mary, His Mother, and Joseph, He will die alone near His Mother, and the disciple whom He loved. 

How then can we speak of a good news? A God makes Himself man and dies on a cross… Bad news for God. Bad news for man. However, God has not said His last word. Behold, He whom death seemed to have made a captive of, binding Him inside the linen used to shroud the body of the executed man after the funeral preparation, and keeping Him behind the rolled stone of a now closed tomb, behold, Christ breaks the fetters of the netherworld. From now on, it is death which is the captive. He who is Life has now triumphed over death. In the light of the Resurrection, the cross and the Incarnation become integral parts of the one and unique good news of salvation. 

As St. Paul wrote to one of his spiritual sons, Titus: 

For the grace of God our Savior hath appeared to all men: instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. (Tt 2:11-14) 

Truly, on this night the grace of God has appeared through the birth of a child. It will reveal itself in the triumph over the tomb, on Easter morning. But this grace which blazes over mankind requests to be received, by listening to the teaching it brings and putting it into practice. Already, the narrative of the days and hours preceding the Savior’s birth seems to bode ill for this reception. Caesar Augustus’ decree, requesting that everyone should be enrolled for the census in one’s own town of origin, had compelled Mary and Joseph to leave the lush Galilee for the infertile land of Judaea, whereas the young bride was reaching the end of her pregnancy. Once arrived to Bethlehem, the poor spouses could find no accommodation: the inns, probably too expensive for them, were prohibitive, and the common room was already crowded. 

God came to His own, and His own didn’t recognize Him, or even receive Him. It is in a stable that the Child will be born, and in a crib that He will find His first rest. Therefore, it is not that easy to receive the good news of the birth of a savior, to recognize and receive the grace of God knocking at the door. Evil has obscured the eyes of man, and closed the door of his heart, by wounding deeply the link between creation and Creator. Man has become deaf to the hymn of creation. As an intelligent being, his duty was to give thanks to God for it, and he made himself alien to this duty. Man is wounded in his gaze upon creation, as well as wounded in his gaze upon other men. 

The recent disclosure of topical events confirms this. Let us note that tonight’s Gospel presents us with two different gazes upon man. The first one is Caesar Augustus’ gaze. He wishes to know the number of his subjects. He’s not interested in personally knowing them. What he wants is a number. On the opposite, the Nativity angels come and announce to poor people, shepherds in the vicinity, a great news: “This day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.” And they add: “Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” 

The Christmas message, the good news, is the announcement of peace coming from Heaven, and offered to every man. In Jesus Christ, God reveals the gaze with which He considers each of us. So why is peace so alien to our time? Everywhere war is raging, sometimes in a visible way, often in an invisible way, lurking behind trade agreements and victimizing whole nations. Death, procured by hands whose sole mission should be to cure, is prowling about ever more oppressively near mothers’ wombs, or hospital beds. As it promotes gender theory, society now incites men and women to wage war against their own bodies. 

On this Christmas night, God offers us in abundance the gift of His peace. On this Christmas night, many gifts will be exchanged throughout the world. The most beautiful gift we may offer to our close relations is to consider them with a little bit of the gaze of peace with which God considers us from all eternity. In closing, let us contemplate the gaze with which Mary considers her Child laying in the crib, the All Pure’s gaze on the thrice-holy God. In the glorious hope of the Lord’s coming in His glory, let us draw from this gaze the strength to consider our neighbors with a just gaze, to discover in them the presence of the hidden God, before someday we contemplate forever God in His glory, and our neighbors in the reflection of this same glory. 


[Christmas Day Mass Sermon here.]