Thursday, April 16, 2015

ADSS 1.7 Easter Sermon 1939 - Pius XII

ADSS 1.7

Reference: AAS XXXI (1939), pp 145-151.

Location and date: Vatican, 09.04.1939

Summary statement: The Pope praises peace, pointing out dangers that beset it an the conditions necessary to maintain it.

Language: Latin, translated for The Tablet 15.04.1939, pp 11-12.


Since it is the feast of Easter which gives Us this opportunity of greeting you with all the joy of a father's heart, We declare to you, Most Eminent Cardinals, Venerable Brethren of the Episcopate, Prelates and Priests of the Roman clergy, to you Members of the Religious Orders, and to you Our most beloved children, the faithful Christian people, for whose devoted numbers even this immense church of St. Peter is all too small, We say to you that there is no more fitting way in which to introduce what We propose for your consideration than to repeat those most beautiful words which our Divine Master, raised up from the dead, spoke on this day to His disciples, "Peace be to you" (John xx.19). Behold a greeting of peace, behold an omen of peace indeed!

It was indeed as "the Prince of Peace" (Is. ix. 6) that the Redeemer of mankind was foretold to the world that awaited His coming. It was with the Angelic choirs singing "Glory to God in the highest: and on earth Peace to men of good will" that He was born into the world (Luke ii. 14). Our Redeemer stood forth, the herald and ambassador of Peace, and, in the words of St. Paul, "He preached the gospel of Peace" (Eph. ii. 17).' Nor has this Peace been made void by the disputes and the struggles. For Christ our Lord, when, "death and life engaged in marvellous fight," He fought unto death itself, bought this Peace at the price, as it were, of His blood, won it as the pacifying fruit of the victory He gained, "by the blood of his cross, whether the things in earth, or the things that are in heaven" (Coloss. i. 20).

With good reason therefore does the apostle St. Paul not only repeat, time and again, his invocation, abounding in comfort, "God of Peace, Lord of Peace" (Rom. xv. 33; xvi. 20; I Cot. xiv. 33; Philip. iv. 9; I Thess. v. 23; II Thess. iii. 16; Hebr. xiii. 20) but, taking up yet once again, as it were, the word of the prophets of old (Mic. v. 5) declare Jesus Christ to be Himself our Peace (Eph. ii. 14).

Such are the thoughts which, at this moment, We think it profitable for all to note and to reflect upon, that their spirits may be raised up and refreshed—at this moment when all mankind is so earnestly crying out for peace, is so desirous of peace, so concerned to invoke peace. "For such is the great goodness of peace that . . . nothing is to man more welcome hearing, of all desirable things there is none he more longs for. There is nothing his invention can devise that can better it." (St. Augustine De Civitate Dei xix. 11).

But today, more perhaps than at any other time, it is the words of Jeremias that best describe the situation, who portrays for us men crying "Peace, Peace : and there was no peace." (Jer. vi. 14; viii. 11: Ezech. xiii. 10). On all sides, indeed, wherever we turn our gaze, it is a sad spectacle that awaits us. For in every part of the world we can descry great numbers of men greatly disturbed, anxious as to their fate, tormented with fearful misgivings, that seem to hint at still more frightful things about to come. A fearsome anxiety possesses the souls of men, as though worse dangers yet were hanging over them in direful menace.

How far removed is this unhappy state of things from that serene, secure "tranquillity of order" which is bound up with peace really worthy of its name !
And yet, how can there be real and solid peace while even men with a common nationality, heedless of their common stock or their common fatherland, are torn apart and kept asunder by intrigues and dissensions and the interests of factions? How can there be peace, We repeat, while hundreds of thousands of men, millions even, lack work? For work is not only, for every man, a means of decent livelihood, but it is the means through which all those manifold powers and faculties with which nature, training and art have endowed the dignity of the human personality, find their necessary expression, and this with a certain natural comeliness. Who is there, then, who cannot see how, in such crises of unemployment as those our own time experiences, huge multitudes are created, through this very lack of work, of men utterly wretched, whose unhappy condition is worsened by the bitter contrast it presents with the pleasures and luxurious living of others altogether unconcerned about these armies of the needy ? Who does not see how these poor men fall an easy prey to others whose minds are deceived by a specious semblance of truth, and who spread their corrupting teaching with ensnaring attractions?

Moreover, how can there be peace, if there be lacking between the different States that common, equitable judgment of reason and consent of minds, which have been the power guiding the nations of the world along the shining road of civil progress? When, on the contrary, solemnly sanctioned treaties and pledged faith are stripped of that force and security which plighted faithfulness implies and by which it is strengthened, if this force and security be taken away it becomes every day more difficult to lessen the increase of armaments and to pacify the minds of men, twin desires today of all men everywhere.

We therefore exhort all, as this fearful storm approaches, to make their way back to the King of Peace, the Conqueror of Death, from Whom we have heard the comforting words "Peace be to you." May He bountifully grant to us that peace He promised, His own peace, which the world cannot give, that peace which alone can calm and allay the fears and the confusion of men's minds. "My peace I give you; not as the world giveth do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor fear." (John xiv. 27).

Now with men it is so ordered that their outward tranquillity must be the reflection of something within. Whence the first care must be to bring about peace in men's souls. If peace be lacking to any man's soul, let him have a care, as soon as may be, to seek it. If he already possesses peace of soul, let him diligently foster it, guard it and keep it unharmed. For on this very day, when He first gave Himself, risen from the dead, to the sight of the Apostles, Christ our Lord, not without a most weighty determination, willed to add to His greeting of peace that most precious gift of peace, the Sacrament of Penance. He so willed it that on this solemn day of His Resurrection, there should arise that institution which restores and renews in souls the life which is divine, and 'which is the victory of life over death, that is over sin. To this inexhaustible fount of pardon and of peace, our loving mother the Church most earnestly, in this sacred Pascal time, calls all her children. And if all and each of them would hearken to her voice, zealously, willingly, what a rich and flourishing life in Christ would be theirs! And, moreover, what serene enjoyment would be theirs, of that peace, through which, lovingly and perfectly obedient to the Divine Redeemer, they would be able to conquer the enticements of pleasurable desires. "Would your spirit see itself fitted to conquer your lusts?" we ask with St. Augustine. "Let it subject itself to the Higher Power and it shall triumph over the lower: and you shall be filled with peace, true, certain, peace in most orderly guise. What is the scheme of this peace?' God ruling the mind: the mind ruling the body : there is not any more perfect scheme of things."

You see, therefore, Venerable Brethren and most dear children, how Peace, in the true sense, is built upon a single and most firm foundation. That is to say it is built upon the eternal God, to acknowledge whom, to honour and to worship Whom, to obey Whose commandments, is a duty laid upon every living creature. To diminish the obedience due to the Divine Creator, to regulate it out of existence, is thus nothing else than to throw into confusion and to break up entirely the tranquillity of the individual citizen's life, of the life of the family, of the separate nations and, ultimately, of the whole human race. For it is God alone Who "will speak peace unto His people: and unto His saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart" (Ps. 84). At His bidding alone, Who is the supreme defender of Justice, the supreme dispenser of Peace, "have Peace and Justice kissed" (ibid.). And this is to be expected seeing that, as Isaiah sings, "The work of justice shall be peace, and the service of the justice quietness, and security for evermore" (Isa. xxxii. 17).
This is but natural, for just as without order in human affairs there can be no peace, so, likewise, if justice be done away with, there can be no such thing as order.
Now justice requires that to lawfully constituted authority there be given that respect and obedience which is its due; that the laws which are made shall be in wise conformity with the common good ; and that, as a matter of conscience, all men shall render obedience to these laws. Justice requires that all men acknowledge and defend the sacrosanct rights of human freedom and human dignity, and that the infinite wealth and resources with which God has endowed the whole of the earth, shall be distributed, in conformity with right reason, for the use of all His children. Justice, finally, requires this too, that the activities of the saving Catholic Church, the unerring mistress of the truth, the inexhaustible fountain of the life of the spirit, the chiefest nurse of civil society, shall not suffer any disparagement, still less any prohibiting impediment. But if the noble reign of justice is usurped by the arms of violence, will anyone then marvel if the new age now dawning shows forth not the much-desired brightness of peace, but the dark and bloody furies of war? It is also part. of the office of justice to determine and to maintain the norm of that order in human affairs which is the primary and the principle foundation of lasting peace. But justice only, and alone, cannot overcome the difficulties and obstacles, which very frequently lie in the way of establishing a tranquillity that will endure. If Charity be not joined with strict and rigid justice, in a kind of brotherly bond, the eye of the mind is very easily clouded and thereby hindered, so that it does not discern the rights of another; the ears become deaf, so that they do not hear the voice of that Equity which has the power, by explanation to the wise man willing to listen, to make clear in reasonable and orderly fashion whatever may be matter of dispute, even the bitterest and the rudest of differences.

We must, of course, be understood, when we speak here of Charity, to mean that effective and generous Charity which "urgeth us" (2 Cor. v. 14), and which brings it about that, "they also which live, may not now live to themselves, but to Him that died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. v. 15) ; that Charity, in fine, moved by which Christ Our Lord took "the form of a servant" (Phil. ii. 7), that we all might be made brethren in Him Who is "the first-born" (Thom. viii. 29), children of that same God, heirs of that same Kingdom, called to the joys of that same eternal happiness.

If the minds of mortal men would somewhat drink in the kindliness of this love, and in it repose themselves, then, beyond all doubting, the light of peace would begin to shine upon the labouring human race. Then, to the irritant of wraths in movement there would indeed succeed the peace of the mind that is reasoning; to exaggerated and unbridled demands, the benevolent co-operation of helping effort ; so that trustful repose and serenity would take the place of all that dreadful unrest of mind.

Let men seek once more that road by which they may journey back to friendly affiances in which the convenience and the profit of each are carefully considered in a just and kindly system; in which the sacrifices of individuals shall not be made an excuse for the acquisition of the more valuable properties of the human family; in which, finally, faith publicly given shall flourish as an example to all men of goodwill.

To the end that these effects may follow, and that these Our most cherished desires may be brought to a happy fulfilment, We cannot refrain from repeating, to all the peoples of the world and to their rulers, that fervent invitation, exhortation even, to a Peace bred of justice and charity, which We addressed to them in the very moment, almost, of Our elevation to the Supreme Pontificate.

First of all, therefore, We lift Our hands and eyes to "the King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (1 Tim. vi. 15), beseeching Him with the prayers which, in these Easter solemnities, are used in the sacred liturgy of the Eucharistic Sacrifice: O Lord God, Who through the voice of the Church, callest all Thy children in these days to these most sacred mysteries, to the divine banquet of Thine own most holy Body and Blood, Thou Who dost desire to see all and everyone gathered at this sacrament of the altar, which is the most precious gift of Thy love in our regard, and at the same time a sign and a bond of that Love which joins us in brotherly alliance, do Thou, O Lord God, "pour forth into our hearts the spirit of Thy charity, that Thou mayest bring to a harmony of brotherly Love those whom Thou hast fed with these Easter Sacraments." Amen.


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