Accepting God’s peace

Question: The new Gloria prayer says, “On earth peace to people of good will.” The Old Gloria said, “and peace to his people on earth.” Are we only praying for non-evildoers? What is the emphasis of this change?

Kevin Hansen, Brookings, S.D.

Answer: The phrase you cite from the Gloria (itself a quote from Lk 2:14) is not about for whom or for what we are praying. Rather, it is about how God’s peace comes to rest upon us and upon this world.  

God’s peace is not just a human wish that we can have for others; it is the result of being in conformity to his will and about being reconciled to him. There can be no true peace where there is a refusal to live according to the vision of his kingdom.

The biblical concept of peace does not simply mean an absence of conflict; rather, it means that there is present in the relationship everything that ought to be there, e.g., justice, love, reciprocity and truth.

Hence, God’s peace can only rest on those who are of “good will.” The Greek word from Luke’s Gospel translated here as “good will,” is eudokia, a word that describes one who manifests a desire and delight, who is open to the Kingdom of God.

Hence, the new translation is both more accurate in terms of the biblical text and also more theologically accurate. Peace does not just drop out of heaven on all people. But rather, it results for those who, by God’s grace, are open and disposed to what he is offering. Peace is the result that accrues to those who, by their good will and openness, accept what God offers.

Why no deaconesses?

Question: Why does the modern Church not have deaconesses? (Scripture and some of the Church Fathers mention them). It seems they would fill a void, given the shortage of priests.

Dolores Chauffe, via email

Answer: The references to deaconesses in the early Church are complicated and much-debated. St. Paul does speak of certain women as having a ministry of service. In his discussion about deacons, in 1 Timothy 3:11, Paul does say, “The women too ...”

But what he means here is unclear. Does he mean that women were ordained deacons? Or is he referring to the wives of deacons? And even if they were deaconesses, did they receive the ministry by the laying on of hands? It seems not. Though Acts 6:6 mentions the first deacons having hands laid on them, there is no reference to this in terms of the women.

In the Greek text of the New Testament, the word diakonia can refer to the office of deacon (diakoni) or more generically to a ministry (diakonia) of service.  

Some speculate that an essential task of deaconesses was to attend the baptism of women, since baptisms were conducted disrobed. For modesty’s sake, women conducted the baptisms of women. 

We are left with a great deal of speculation if we simply examine the scriptural text. But we do not simply attend to the scriptural text. We also look also to the practice of the early Church. And regarding this, there is no evidence that the clerical office of deacon was ever conferred on women by the laying on of hands.

There is little doubt that women can and do serve in many ways in the Church today. But it does not follow that they must be ordained to the clerical state of deacon to do so. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.