There is a word exchanged between us at Christmas which we rarely use in the way for the rest of the year. It is the word ‘peace’. Of course, this word is heavily used throughout the year in connection with war.
The strangest thing about peace is that we always expect it to come from an external source, “We want peace!” or “Let us declare peace!” we hear people say. Then this peace comes at the price of compromise which can rarely be agreed upon. So then we need a peace treaty, a contract that imposes conditions for agreement.
Why is Jesus Christ referred to as the Prince of Peace or the Lord of Peace? His path to the cross was less than peaceful. So we can ask, is peace given to us, or is it up to us to find this peace? Indeed, we could say that the higher response would be to be peaceful in the face of adversity, and the lower response would be to expect someone else to do something so that we experience peace.
Eirene is the Greek word for peace and indicates freedom from disturbance, stillness. Shalom is the Hebrew equivalent and means soundness. We could say that peace means inner harmony which we achieve by harmonising all that is discordant within us. Imagine if each person took it as their responsibility to create this inner harmony, to be peaceful.
I have written about this process in my reflection series by suggesting that each time our equilibrium is disturbed we can place ourselves in the upper room where the disciples met after the crucifixion and Christ appeared among them. It was as if he walked through the wall (because the doors were locked, and the disciples would have experienced intense fear. Read the story in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of St John, Jn 20:19-31. Three times Jesus says, “Eirene humin”, “Peace to you” which essentially means remove the disturbance within you and reinstate soundness.
Now this was all very well for him to say. The human condition is one of fear (which we will explore another time) and therefore we need all the help we can get to deal with fear. I have suggested that whenever we experience inner disturbances that we create in our minds an image of Jesus standing before us saying “Peace to you.” This reinforces our own ability to reinstate inner harmony. By repeating this practice over time it will become second nature and be of great assistance whenever we are alarmed. So we have to create peace within ourselves, if we wait for it to approach us from outside we will never experience it.