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The Song of the Angels

From Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries:

Glory to God, the highest of the heavens, and peace on earth to men of good will. Peace is proclaimed throughout the earth: the peace of man with God through the remission of sins; the peace of men among themselves; the peace of man with himself, by the concurrence of all his desires to want what God wants. This is the peace that the angels sing and announce to the whole universe.

This peace is the subject of the glory of God. Let us not rejoice in this peace, because it makes itself felt in us in our hearts, but because it glorifies God in the high throne of his glory; let us elevate ourselves to the high places, to the greatest height of the throne of God in order to glorify him in himself, and to love what he made in us only in relation to him.

Let us sing in this spirit, with the whole Church: Gloria in excelsis Deo. Every time we sing this Angelic Canticle, let us enter into the music of the angels by the concert and the agreement of all our desires. Let us remember the birth of Our Lord who gave birth to this song. Let us say from the heart all the words that the Church adds to interpret the Song of the Angels: we praise you; we adore you; laudamus te, adoramus te; and above all: Gratias agimus tibi, propter magnam gloriam tuam; we give you thanks for your great glory; we love your blessings, because they glorify you; and the good things you do to us, because your kindness is honoured.

Peace on earth to men of good will. The word in the original, which is explained by good will, signifies the good will of God for us; and marks us that peace is given to men dear to God.

The original bears word for word: Glory to God in the high places, peace on earth, good will from the side of God into men. This is how the Eastern Churches have always read. Those of the West return to it, singing peace to men of good will; that is to say, first, to those to whom God wills good; and secondly, to those who themselves have a good will, since the first effect of the good will that God has for us is to inspire in us a good will towards him.

Good will is that which is in conformity with the will of God: as it is good in essence and by itself, that which is in conformity with it is good by this relation. Let us therefore rule our will by that of God, and we will be men of good will, provided it is not through insensitivity, indolence, neglect, and to avoid work, but through faith where we cast everything on God. The soft and lazy souls have rather done by suddenly saying: May God do what He wills; and only care to flee from pain and worry. But, to be truly in conformity with the will of God, it is necessary to know how to make a sacrifice of what is most dear to him, and with a torn heart, to say to him: All is yours; do what you want. As the holy man Job, who having lost in one day his goods and all his children, as they came one after the other to bring him the news, throwing themselves to the ground, he adored God and said: The Lord had given me everything what I had; the Lord took it away from me: it happened as it pleased the Lord; blessed be the name of the Lord. He who adores in this way is the true man of good will, and, raised above the senses and his own will, he glorifies God in the high places. This is how he has peace, and he tries to calm the disturbance of his heart, not because this disturbance pains him, but because it prevents the perfection of the sacrifice he wants to make to God, otherwise he would seek only a false rest; and that is what good will is.

Good will is the sincere love of God, and, as Saint Paul says: It is the charity of a pure heart, of an upright conscience, and of a faith which is not feigned. Faith is feigned in those where it is not supported by good works, and good works are those where one seeks to please God, and not one’s own mood, inclination or desire; so when we seek God with pure intention, the works are complete. Otherwise, we receive this reproach from Jesus Christ: I do not find your works complete before my God.


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