We wish all our readers a grace-filled and peaceful Christmas and we share with you a Christmas reflection:
Christmas Eve Reflection during Vespers
The theme of my reflection, on this Christmas Eve night, is ‘ Peace’. Conscious of the lack of peace in Syria, Iraq, Africa, the Holy Land and in various other countries of the world and bearing in mind especially the lack of inner peace in ourselves at times and so prevalent in people in general, I was led to ponder the title given to Jesus before his birth, that of Prince of Peace, in the book of the prophet Isaiah, which will be read tonight at Mass:
For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wonder – Counsellor, Mighty –God,
Eternal- Father, Prince-of –Peace.
Wide is his dominion
In a peace that has no end.( Is. 9 )
We long so much for this peace that ‘has no end’. We long for it for ourselves, our families, our communities, our friends and for the world at large. We want Isaiah’s prophecy, which says;
For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
and consumed by fire
- we want that to be realised now, without further delay. The Gospel tonight further reinforces this message of peace when it says:
And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host,
praising God and singing:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to
men who enjoy his favour’
This theme of peace abounds everywhere in the Liturgy tonight and tomorrow. In the entrance antiphon, Jesus is personified as peace itself as it says:
‘ True peace has come down to us from heaven’
On the very first weekday of Advent, and on all Mondays in Advent, I was very struck by the post communion prayer, again referring to peace; it said:
“Come, O Lord, visit us in peace, that we may rejoice before you with a blameless heart.”
In all these quotes humanity and God are linked together because peace is a gift bestowed on us by God the Father, through and in his son Jesus Christ
The truth of Isaiah’s words come to mind:
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. ( Is.26)
This is really to say that our peace, our inner peace is dependent on our relationship of trust in God. Peace is the fulfilment of our deepest needs. It is the fruit of a personal relationship with the Eternal. We are not alone. God, gentle and humble, is with us, watching over us and guiding us. As we learn to relax and trust in love we become free of the walls and barriers that imprison us in fear, prejudice, hostility and guilt. We are filled with a new joy, a new life, the very life of love.
Sometimes when I feel my own inner peace is disturbed I remind the Lord of his promise in
Gospel, when he says: St.
Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you.
A peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.
In speaking about peace
St. Thomas quotes in defining peace as the tranquillity of order. Peace consists in the calm and union of our
desires and is twofold in that there is perfect
peace and imperfect peace. St. Augustine
Perfect peace, he says, consists in the perfect enjoyment of God which causes all our desires and tendencies to be united and at rest in one. This perfect peace is only possible in Heaven.
Imperfect peace, on the other hand, is the peace which we can have in this world. It is imperfect because, even though the soul’s principal movement is to rest in God, there still remain certain obstacles, both within and without, which disturb the soul’s peace. St. Thomas goes on to say that peace is the effect of charity since charity means that we love God with our whole heart by referring everything to him, all our desires become focused on loving God in Himself and we know that love is always a unifying force.
I have come to understand that ‘the peace which God gives is not a freedom from the storms and conflicts of life, but a mysterious strength and comfort amid the storms; not the removal of pain, but the bestowal of a precious gift. The gift is God himself, the comforter, the one who stands alongside us. However, receiving God’s peace is not automatic; it requires the work of faith.
Also peace is not just the work of governments or armies or diplomats but the task of each one of us. We can all become makers of peace. Peace must begin with myself, within my own heart and from there radiate outwards. This is in fact possible because tonight we celebrate what God, in his infinite love for us, has done by sending Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to dwell among us and in our hearts, as the teacher and bestower of peace.
is within us but there, it has to
grow and spread. In that process we may experience the apocalyptic chaos and
disruption and the Messianic peace and harmony – and everything in between! Our
lion may have to learn to lie down with
our lamb! And then after coping with my own lion what about coping with the
lions in everyone else around me!? kingdom of God
The following medieval verses recognised this inner world and the transformation Christ’s coming brings:
You shall know him when he comes
Not by any din of drums,
Not by anything he wears,
Nor by the vantage of his airs;
Not by his gown,
Nor by his crown,
But his coming known shall be
By the holy harmony
That his presence makes in thee.
May all of us experience this holy harmony, this peace, fruit of the Holy Spirit, and true effect of charity, gift of God to be received by faith, as we celebrate with thanksgiving the great mystery of Christ’s incarnation, of his coming among us and within us, as the Prince of Peace. Amen