The Way Of Peace
“Be at peace in your soul and all around
you hundreds will be converted”. This sentence
coming from Seraphim of Sarov, a charming
saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church, says
it all. But what is peace?
There was once a contest where artists where
asked to give an artistic rendition of peace.
Two of the exhibits were short-listed for
the final decision.
One depicted a calm lake with scenic towering
mountains all around it. The sky was blue,
the sea was calm, the colors were bright.
The other picture had mountains too. But
they were rugged and bare. Rain fell, the
winds were strong, the clouds heavy and dark.
A foaming waterfall tumbled down. And behind
the waterfall, a tiny bush growing in a crack
in the rock. In the bush, a nest. A mother
bird had built her nest there!
The judges, rather unexpectedly, chose the
latter as an exemplar of peace, justifying
their decision by saying that peace does
not necessarily mean living where there is
no trouble or mess. Peace means to be in
the midst of all the troubles of life and
still be calm in your heart.
The world promises peace through the rule
of the law. Law and order is the only way
for a society to acquire and maintain peace.
There are a set of regulations that should
be followed. Everywhere – at home, at work,
between neighbors, between nations. If you
don’t, then you are punished. If necessary,
use force aggressively.
Jesus speaks about another kind of peace.
The defining phrase is, “Not as the world
gives.” In the vision of Jesus, there is
no aggressiveness. No belligerence. No laws
to follow. It was Saint Augustine who said,
Love and do what you want! It is a peace
that is basically acquired through surrender.
Surrender to His will as manifested in the
daily events of life.
Peace is an interior thing that manifests
itself on the outside. Jesus Christ after
all did not promise to calm every storm in
our life. He promised to calm us in every
storm of life. I am always touched by the
realism by which Jesus Christ speaks. He
predicts rain that will come down and storms
that will rise and winds that will blow and
beat against the house that we shall build.
However he offers a solution. The one who
is wise enough to build on rock will survive,
the one who is foolish and builds on sand
will find himself with a ruined house.
The quote of Peter Parker in Spiderman 3
is definitely catchy. “No matter what comes
our way. No matter what battle we have raging
inside of us, we always have a choice. My
friend Harry taught me that. He chose to
be that best of himself. Our choices are
what makes us who we are. And we always have
the choice to do what’s right.” The question
is do we really have this choice?
Is the attainment of peace a question of
will power? Is it all a question of good
politics? It is just good psychology and
good counseling? Apparently not if we are
to judge from what we see around us.
The vision of the Church is more pragmatic.
There is a radical problem in man, it says.
She calls this problem original sin, namely
this deep selfishness that turns everything
that comes in man’s way in his favor, many
times to the oblivion of others. Experience
has shown us again and again the superficiality
of our solutions.
The answer to a real lasting peace has to
come from a source that is divine. Thomas
Merton, the Trappist monk who died in 1968,
once wrote, “We are not at peace with others
because we are not at peace with ourselves,
and we are not at peace with ourselves because
we are not at peace with God.” As simple
One of the brothers asked Abba Isidore, a
priest of Scetis, “Why are the demons so
terrified of you?” And the old man said,
“Ever since I became a monk I have tried
never to let anger rise as far as my mouth.”
And if we were to ask him how did he do it,
he will simply look up and point to heaven!
God is at the root of this attitude of peace!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
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