According to St Luke, on the morning of Christ’s birth angels sang of a new “peace on earth to men” who were of (in Latin) bonae voluntatis. Whereas in the previous English translation of the Mass this was understood as peace to men who were God’s “people on Earth”, the newer edition assures us that it is instead to “people of good will”, a seeming distinction. Is it peace for people who God favours or, rather, for anyone who is quite nice anyway?
In other places in the Scriptures, the newborn Christ is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah) and is also, in fact, himself simply “our peace” without any further qualification (Ephesians). This must be part of the reason why, although Jews and Muslims greet each other with a “peace be with you”, we Christians may greet each other with “the Lord be with you”, as He is simply “our peace’.
Elsewhere again Our Lord says to us, “peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you”, but “not as the world gives, do I give unto you” (John). But then in Matthew, Our Lord says, “do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”.
Well, that seems quite clear: there’s no peace on earth coming if He can help it. Which is all rather confusing.
I do not know whether you also have been rather confused about this whole peace thing, especially when we see that it never seems to remain all that peaceful for very long. It’s all looking rather icky at the moment, actually. I have also wondered whether the peace Christ gives is meant as peace between nations and we should all become nuns-on-a-bus? Or is it a kind of personal peace one may gain from hearing the Gospel? Well, we all want “inner peace”, don’t we?
Pope John XXIII issued an Encyclical letter, PACEM IN TERRIS, on Maundy Thursday, 1963. Perhaps he can give us a clue on what is meant? Maybe it’s a bit of both? Or are the two “peaces” deeply connected, as I really suspect they are?
Let us, then, pray with all fervour for this peace which our divine Redeemer came to bring us. May He banish from the souls of men whatever might endanger peace. May He transform all men into witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love. May He illumine with His light the minds of rulers, so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may also guarantee them the fairest gift of peace.
Finally, may Christ inflame the desires of all men to break through the barriers which divide them, to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another, and to pardon those who have done them wrong. Through His power and inspiration may all peoples welcome each other to their hearts as brothers, and may the peace they long for ever flower and ever reign among them.
For those of us following the calendar of Paul VI and living where Epiphany is not a public holiday, Christmas appears to be ending tomorrow (and, for those following the calendar of John XXIII, on the next day, Monday, when it will be Epiphany).
Since this peace is so intimately associated with the feast of Christmas and its angels, it is good to ponder again on this gift today and pray a moment for the graces needed to significantly contribute to it in the year ahead or, at least, not hinder it.
Just as Christmas is departing and the crib and tree are going back in their boxes, Maestro Monsignor Marco Frisina again provides us with a prayer, about peace on earth. While it is not the greatest music in the world (some may think of it as Sacred Muzak), it would move most souls probably (and it’s the prayer that counts, mainly, anyway). Hope you are not afraid of great heights.
Mons. Frisina’s many works are often well received among our Italian brothers and sisters. He composes for a lot of things in Italy, even for television productions and film, both for RAI and also the Italian Catholic mass media. This song was composed for a TV programme on the life of Blessed Pope John, I believe.
Pacem in terris
Pace, sublime dono del Signore,
carezza dello Spirito.
Vieni sul mondo a consolare ogni uomo,
a risanare ogni cuore ferito dal peccato.
Pacem, pacem, dona nobis pacem in terris.
Peace, sublime gift of the Lord,
caress of the Spirit.
Come upon the world to console every man,
to heal every heart wounded by sin.
Peace, peace, give us peace on earth.
A blessed Epiphany (Three Kings Day), either on the 5th or 6th!
Your comment on why Our Lord is the Prince of Peace (or just “Our Peace”) would be valued.