Joyeux NoëlDec 23rd, 2010 | By Bryan Cross | Category: Blog Posts
Advent is not only about the coming of Christ into the world, it is also about the coming of His Kingdom, the Church that He establishes. This is why the first reading on the first Sunday of Advent is about the Church, from the prophet Isaiah:
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:2-4)
The mountain of the house of the Lord is the Church, which God sets up supernaturally in the time of the fourth man-made kingdom, according to Daniel’s dream.1 According to Isaiah this Kingdom of the Messiah is catholic (i.e. universal) in the sense that all the nations shall stream to it. Moreover, this Kingdom is visible, not only because people can go to it, but because it has a teaching authority that can issue the law, and the word of the Lord for the peoples of all the nations. In addition, not only does the Kingdom have the authority to judge disputes between individuals (cf. Matt 18:17, 1 Cor 6:1-6) it has the authority to judge between nations, such that they do not need to war against each other. Even the nations are each to be subject to the higher visible authority of Christ’s Church.
Regarding this, there are two possible opposing errors. One is the notion that man can bring about peace among the nations on his own, without Christ and without the Church. This is the error of the Antichrist.2 The second error is the notion that Christ did not establish a visible Kingdom, or will do so only after He comes again. This is the Protestant error which denies that Christ founded a visible Church, and instead adopts an ecclesial docetism according to which in the present era Christ has founded only an invisible Church.3
Outside of the United Nations building in New York, is a sculpture titled “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares” by Evgeniy Vuchetich. It was a gift from the USSR to the United Nations in 1959, and was obviously inspired by this passage in Isaiah. But when Isaiah speaks of beating swords into plowshares, he is speaking of the peace that follows the obedience of faith, as nations stream into the universal Church. He is not speaking of a peace that man gives himself apart from Christ, but of a peace that comes only from above, supernaturally; this grace comes to us through the Church and through the sacraments Christ has established in her. The beating of swords into plowshares in this way depends on the keys of the Kingdom, which Christ gave to Peter. (Matthew 16:19)
“Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares”
“Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter”
This is one more reason why the schisms that divide Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics are all the more tragic, because they hinder the messianic purpose of the Church, by hiding from the world the unity Christ offers to all men through full communion with His Body, the Church. Peace on earth is not just inner peace within the individual; it is peace among and between the nations. And it comes from Christ, through His Church, as all the nations are gathered into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that He founded.
I was reminded of this recently by a scene in the film Joyeux Noël (see the video below), depicting an actual event that occurred on December 24, 1914, during World War I. Soldiers from Germany, Scotland, and France were in trenches so close together that they could hear each other talking. But on Christmas Eve, something happened that made them put down their guns, play soccer together, and even worship together, as they participated in a Latin liturgy. Obviously they were not all Catholics. But, even so, they still shared enough Christian heritage, culture and spirituality to recognize the importance of commemorating that sacred night.
This following scene is just a shadow, a dim reflection, of the supernatural unity that Christ has established in His Church, and into which He is now, in this present age, calling all the nations of the world.
“In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 12:3)
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)
To all our readers, may you have a blessed Christmas, and may we all be instruments of His peace, as Christ through the Church continues to break down the walls that divide us, and bring all the nations into the communion of the Holy Trinity. (Eph 2:14)
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. (Dan. 2:44-45)
- See “Pentecost, Babel, and the Ecumenical Imperative.” [↩]
- See “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” [↩]