Thursday, February 1, 2007

True Peace

1. Everybody desires peace, but very few people possess it. A good many profound and beautiful definitions have been attempted. Cicero called it "tranquilla libertas," which one might translate as "undisturbed freedom". His general idea was that there can be no peace without liberty. St. Augustine defined it as "hominum ordinata concordia" (De. Civ. Dei, XIX, 13) or "ordered agreement among men". St. Thomas followed on the same lines when he said that peace was "tranquillitas ordinis" (Summa, II-II, q. 29, a. 1 ad. 1) or "tranquillity of order." There are three necessary elements in peace. They are order, harmony, and liberty. Right order is the most important. Everything in us must be in its proper place. As we have shown in the preceding meditation, our lower faculties must be entirely subordinate to right reason, and this must be completely subject to the law of God.

Every act of rebellion against this proper order creates confusion in our nature and makes peace impossible. Furthermore, there must be harmony and agreement. This means that our minds must voluntarily accept and embrace this just order, and not merely endure it with reluctance. As St. Thomas says, peace is an act of charity; it comes indirectly from justice and directly from charity (Summa, II-II, q. 29; a. 1, ad. 3). We have perfect peace when this just order holds sway within us, provided that we are not enduring it as if it were a yoke, but lovingly accepting it under the inspiration of divine charity. This is that genuine peace which gives us the liberty of the sons of God, that freedom from evil with which Christ has set us free (Cf. Gal. 4:31; 2 Cor. 3:17). True peace flourishes in an atmosphere of goodness and perishes when it encounters evil. Whether it is in the field of social relations or in the spiritual life, peace without liberty is not peace at all, but slavery and death.

2. when He came into the world, Jesus proclaimed peace. The Angels hovering over His humble manger sang, songs of glory to God on high and of peace to men of good will on earth. During His earthly pilgrimage He often spoke of peace. When He forgave sinners their faults, He said to each of them: God in peace, and sin no more (Luke 7:50; 8:48; John 8:11). When He was leaving this earth He bequeathed His peace to His Apostles as if it were a sacred heirloom: Peace I leave with yo, my peqace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14:27). We can see from these words that the peace of Jesus is not the same as worldly peace. The Church in its liturgy implores from God that peace which the world cannot give. When the world speaks of peace, it means nomrally the external, public peace which flows from respect for the law and for the established regime. This is peace; there is no doubt about that. It is necessary and is a gift from God. But it is not enough. We need the inner peace of soul of which we have already spoken, for it is the only true and solid foundation for external peace. Without this peace of soul, external peace is uncertain and fleeting. We have said that true peace is based on three things: Right order, harmony, and liberty. But in order to obtain full and perfect peace still one more thing is necessary; complete and loving abandonment to the will of God. The beginning of real peace and holiness lies in doing the will of God in every detail. The perfection of peace and holiness is to do the will of God in everything purely from love for Him. Dante expresses this profound idea when he describes the peace of the blessed in Heaven, now unshakeable in their joyful compliance with the divine will.

"E la sua volontate é nostra pace:
Ella é quel mare, al qual tutto si move
ciò ch' ella crea e che natura face."
(Paradiso, III, 85-87)

"His will is our repose:
He is the ocean into which everything flows
Which He has created in the universe."

3. This absolute and loving abandonment to the will of God in all things bring complete inner peace, but it does not exclude conflict. Interior peace is the result of the practice of virtue and therefore of the struggle against evil. When Our Lord had repeated several times that He had given us His peace, He said also: Do not think that I have come to send peace upon the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace ((Mt. 10:34). These apparently contradictory words of Our Lord are explained by the fact that the peace of Jesus does not consist inactivity, but demands action and strife and the conquest of evil. It is a militant peace which Our Lord desires us to possess. Only when we have controlled our passions, when we have made our wills entirely subject to the will of God and have renounced ourselves so that the justice and charityof Jesus Christ can triumph in us, only then shall we reach those serene heights where storms from below cannot come near us and the peace of God reigns supreme.

We find examples of this true and perfect peace among the Saints, Martyrs and Apostles. We read of the Apostles that they departed ... rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41). This is an example of that genuine peace which is the result of victory in the combat against evil and of complete and loving submission to the will of God.

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