It must be Christmas time because the media and commercial stores are plastered with Peace signs. I was reflecting on my Lectio quote (Phil 2:5) and the thought about the meaning of Peace came to mind.
The Incarnation, I reasoned, is not just the beginning of an epoch, but allows those who are people of good will to experience peace. This is not the peace that the world gives, as in the absence of conflict, although that is one of its meanings. I thought about going deeper into the meaning of Peace in terms of the divine economy of salvation, the Mystery of Faith, one step along the path to salvation. For those who have authentic Faith (a gift from God to allow us to give Him glory and praise), Peace is a word that is not passive, but an active word, one that produces in us what it signifies. Since this is not just the peace that the world thinks of at Christ, Peace is actually energy from God to allow us to claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
For the World, Peace comes in the form of good will to humans. We give gifts to one another at Christmas to signify that we love family and friends. After all, isn’t it better to give than to receive?
For Christ, Peace means love to humans of good will. This love is different because the gift is the love Christ had for each of us and all of us. The only command Christ left us is to love one another as He loves us. What more fitting commemoration could we have than for God to become one of us out of pure love, the love that we can only approach with humility and obedience to God’s will. (Philippians 2:5-12) This Christ event informs all that we do, so much so that we are bid to give each other love. At the Eucharist, a much-underappreciated activity is the Sign of Peace, where Christ is made present to us in a community of those of good will and bids us to share himself with others. This giving of the Sign of Peace is our gift to Christ so that we can try to love others as he has loved us. We actually share His love with each other as when we give each other the sign of Peace. This is the Mystery of Faith.
During this time of Peace, this memorial of the birth of Christ, this sign of contradiction to the allurements of the World, this ultimate sign of humility for us to copy in our lives, we celebrate the Good News of Peace, the coming of our God, once again.
I will have had seventy-eight Christmas celebrations so far, not that I remember all of them. I do remember Midnight Mass in Vincennes, Indiana, when we had to walk four blocks to the Old Cathedral Church on very cold and sometimes snowy nights. We all bundled up and made the trek. The Church was packed to the rafters. There was the large manger with Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus. Each year it was there, and each year we did the same thing. Today, the setting is different but there is still a Midnight Mass.
Being exposed to Cistercian (Benedictine) spirituality, I hope I see more clearly, yet through a foggy window at the great reality that is part of our heritage of Faith. Every day is the Incarnation. Every day is the Passion and Death of Christ in my life. Every day is the Resurrection and Ascension to the Father. To be sure, I don’t consciously think about them each day, but they are the foundations for loving others as Christ loves us.
In this season of Peace, God gives us the gift of love and asks only that we share it with each other. It takes a lifetime to probe even the fringes of what that Mystery of Faith might mean in our human existence, but it is the challenge we face. That in all things, God may be glorified. –St. Benedict
May the Peace of Christ be with you. Amen and Amen.