The latest instalment from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, XV-IX:
Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will. Peace is published throughout the earth: peace of man with God for the remission of sins, peace of men among themselves, the peace of man with himself by the harmonisation of all his desires to want what God wants. This is the peace that the Angels sing and which they announce to the entire universe.
This peace is the subject of the glory of God. Let us not rejoice in this peace because it makes us feel good in our hearts, but because it glorifies God in the high throne of his glory: let us ascend up to the high places, to the highest place of the throne of God to glorify him in himself and not love what he has done in us to bond ourselves to him.
Let us sing in this spirit with all the Church: Glory to God in the highest. Each time when we start singing this angelic song, let us enter into the music of the Angels by the symphony and the agreement of all our desires. Let us remember the birth of Our Saviour who gave birth to this song. Let us say from our heart all the words which the Church added to interpret the song of the Angels: we praise you, we adore you, and above all, we give you thanks for your great glory. We love your benefits because they glorify you and the good things which you do for us, because your goodness is honoured.
On earth peace to men of good will. The word of the original which is translated by “good will”, means the good will of God for us, and tells us that peace is given to men cherished of God.
The original says, word by word: Glory to God in the high places, peace on the earth, good will from the side of God into men. It is such which is always read in the Eastern Churches. Those of the West come back and sing peace to men of good will, that is to say in the first place to those to whom God wills well, and in the second place to those who themselves have good will, thus the first effect of the good will which God has for us is to inspire us to to have good will towards him.
Good will is that which conforms to the will of God, as that is good by essence and by itself, that which is conformed to it is good by extension. Let us control our will by that of God, and we will be men of good will, to see that this be not by senselessness, or indolence, or negligence or to avoid work, but by faith, that we throw all on God. Soft and lazy souls would rather do this in speaking all at once; may God do what he wants, and they are only concerned about fleeing pain and worry. But to be truly conformed to the will of God, it is necessary to know to make a sacrifice of the dearest thing, and with a torn heart, say to him: all is yours, do what you want; like the holy man Job, who lost in a day all of his goods and children, the news coming to him blow by blow. He throws himself to the ground and says: the Lord gave all that I have, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord. He who worships in this way is the true man of good will; and elevated above the senses and his own desires, he glorifies God in the high places. It is in this way that he has peace, and he tries to calm the trouble in his heart, not just to avoid being sad, but because this trouble blocks the perfection of the sacrifice which he wants to make to God. Otherwise he only seeks a false rest, and see that this is good will.
Good will, it is the sincere love of God and, as St. Paul says, it is love from a pure heart, a right conscience and a faith that does not fail. Faith is weak in those where it is not underlain by good works; and good works are those where one seeks to please God and not one’s own mood, inclination, or wish. Then, when you search God with a pure intention, the works are full, otherwise you receive this reproach from Jesus Christ: For I find not thy works full before my God. (Revelation 3:2 DRB)