On Christmas Eve, newspapers typically devote an editorial to the significance of the holiday ahead. No editorial does this more profoundly than “In Hoc Anno Domini“, which has appeared in The Wall Street Journal every year since 1949.
Written by Vermont Royster, who ran the paper’s editorial page from 1958 to 1971, the piece depicts St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus in light of Jesus’ famous admonition to, â€œRender unto Caesar the things which are Caesarâ€™s, and unto God the things that are Godâ€™sâ€ (Matthew 22:21). Jesus makes this statement in response to the question whether he thinks it is lawful to pay taxes unto Caesar, to wit, the Roman state.
Whatever one’s views on religion, it must be acknowledged that Jesus’ answer beautifully encapsulates the idea that the state’s power is limited. We may owe it a certain level of taxes — preferably only to fund national defense and the protection of our lives, liberties, and property. But our souls do not in any way belong to the state. Nor are we to look to it to fulfill our souls.
And so we must heed the fear that Paul was gripped by:
Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.
Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.