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Christmas: Peace Or Passivity?

December 19, 2013 Frontpage No Comments


Peace, although universally desirable, remains intellectually problematic. I recall inviting a group of 25 or so university students to give me a working definition of peace. Despite their sincere and studied attempts, they could not offer me a single image of peace that was positive. Peace, for them, was the absence of war, strife, conflict, problems, interruptions, frustrations, and so on. Peace, according to their provisional definitions, was indistinguishable from anesthesia. It was a synonym for Requiescat in pace.
Christmas is about peace in its positivity. Mary is the Queen of Peace. Her Child is a bearer of peace. At Christmastime, our hearts should be filled with peace. We may begin our understanding of the positive quality of peace by reflecting on the Christmas message.
St. Augustine tells us that “peace is the tranquility of order.” If we apply this definition to Christmas, we might ask about what “order” it might imply. Christmas, which is the Nativity of Christ, is anticipated by the ordered mysteries of the Annunciation and Visitation. In response to the Annunciation, Mary replied, “Yes,” “Be it done unto me according to thy Word.” Her Visitation represents a continuation of this “Yes” during her pregnancy. The Annunciation and Visitation are ordered to the Nativity. The affirmation of all three of these decisive events confers peace, the tranquility of order. Collectively, they bring peace to disordered lives who live in a disordered world.
The continuing yeses, or fiats, of Mary would have to be decisive and consistent if the Nativity was truly going to be an event of peace. It would have to be positive and affirming if Christmas was going to bring about peace in a positive and affirming way. In order to appreciate fully the peace of Christmas, we must understand the strength of Mary’s positive affirmations that preceded it.
In diametric contrast with the peace of Christmas is Planned Parenthood’s sinister slogan, “Let there be choice on earth.” With regard to Mary, there certainly were choices. But her choices were always a resounding “Yes.” They were Yes to God, to love, to order, and to bringing Christ into the world. And, as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen has reminded us, “Christianity came into the world because a woman was willing to make a child the center of her life.” Mary brought not only Christ but also Christianity into the world.
In order to be a champion of mere choice, one must remain, as difficult as it may be, serenely indifferent to the outcome of that choice. To venerate choice and remain indifferent to the outcome of choice, however, is to be a moral apathist. It has been said that an atheist is a person who can watch a football game between Notre Dame and Southern Methodist University and not care who wins. We can say that the definition of a moral apathist is a person who encourages people to choose, but remains blissfully unconcerned about the consequences, disastrous or beneficent, of their choices. His enthusiasm is for drinking; he is apathetic about whether the potion is poisonous. He loves jumping; he is unmindful of the height from which he jumps. Conception or contraception, continuing pregnancy or abortion, joyful birth or wrongful birth are all presumed to have the same moral status.
I recall another pedagogical incident in which I suggested to my students that they would not be opposed to the use of contraception specifically on the night when they were conceived. To my astonishment, I was harshly rebuked, being told that they were willing, retroactively, to defer to their parents’ “choice.” I was saddened to learn that a person could be reluctant to affirm his own existence strongly enough to thank his parents for not using contraception that night he was conceived.
If our enthusiasm for life is limited by our obsession with choice, then we have no reason to delight in whatever good choices we might make, never rejoice in Mary’s fiats, never find merriment in Christmas, and never enjoy peace. If moral life is limited to choice, then the good or bad outcomes are simply off the radar screen.
There are medical doctors who advise against showing an ultrasound image of a developing child to his pregnant mother because, as they say, “they do not want to violate her [the mother’s] neutrality.” Apparently, they would prefer that the mother sustain an apathetic attitude toward her own child.
If we are truly indifferent to what we choose, we would surely become indifferent to choice itself. We could hardly celebrate Christmas if Mary had said, “No.” Planned Parenthood, therefore, cannot favor choice the way it claims it does; it favors death — death through abortion.
We rejoice in choices that are good. Let us remember this Christmas that peace came into that little town in Bethlehem because Mary, the Mother of God, made a series of strong, decisive, and salutary choices that brought into the world the Prince of Peace. Let us welcome that peace into our hearts while we extend it to others.

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(Donald DeMarco, PhD is a senior fellow of HLI America, an initiative of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. Some of his recent writings may be found at HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.)

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