In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of Bright Week, yesterday saw our celebration of Thomas Sunday, and during the Liturgy we heard the account of Christ’s appearance to the Apostle Thomas, who had not been present at the Lord’s first appearance to His disciples.
During the homily, before talking about witnesses of the resurrection, I reflected on the Risen Saviour’s blessing as He entered the house in which the disciples hid “for fear of the Jews.”
We can only appreciate the force and meaning of the His greeting, “Peace be unto you” by reflecting upon the turmoil, darkness, anxiety and loss that gripped His disciples after His death and burial.
The disciples had no peace – mentally, emotionally or spiritually – as they dwelt, dazed and confused, behind locked doors – their world fallen apart and gripped by fear and uncertainty.
Whilst those who had already seen the Master had rejoiced and found peace in the resurrection, Thomas lacked that until His encounter with the Risen Lord.
It was in their trauma, agony, pain, bereavement and loss that the Saviour came to the disciples and gave them peace: peace which is something and not simply the absence of noise, conflict, or violence.
When we speak of peace in worldly terms, what we mean is very often not peace at all, but simply an absence of the contrary things that shatter it or destroy it.
The peace that Christ brought to His disciples, and for which we pray in the Great Litany, is not simply a quiet truce or hiatus in the conflicts of relationships, life and the world, but a qualitative manifestation of the presence of the God of love, compassion and mercy, Whom we worship and adore in the Life-Giving and Undivided Trinity.
In the Imperial Capital, Constantinople, the church of Agia Ireine, was dedicated not to the Holy Great-Martyr, but to the Peace of Christ: the peace from above, for which we pray in each Liturgy, and the peace which the Saviour desires to rule the hearts, and characterise the lives of all who have been baptised into His Life-Giving death and resurrection.
This peace is the qualitative indwelling and manifestation of Christ and His Gospel, as we seek the joining of our will, our actions, our mind and thoughts to Him: to put on Christ and reflect Him in all things, as living icons of His presence in the world.
But for this to be a reality, we cannot simply see the Peace of Christ as something coming from outside, regardless of our lives and the things we do, say or think.
We must actively seek peace in the restoration of wholeness and holiness in lives united to Him, and aspiring to conform to His life and Gospel.
In the Sermon on the Mount the Saviour teaches us, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”, but for this to be an abiding reality we must remember that we must also be proactive peace-seekers, recognising that this means perpetually striving to make the Peace of Christ not simply a possibility, but a constant reality.
For the Peace of Christ to be real and indwelling, we must always strive for reconciliation, as it is only possible for us to receive it because through having been reconciled with God through the Saviour’s Life-Giving cross and passion.
Recognising this salvific reconciliation with God, we must also seek reconciliation with one another.
It is in seeking and making peace that we become children of God, and just as children resemble their parents, this spiritual labour and aspiration is the means by which the image and likeness of God can be seen and recognised in us.
We cannot be Christians, and recognised as such, unless we continually seek peace; strive for peace; struggle for peace: opposing strife, conflict and division with love, forgiveness and humility, as the qualitative evidence of the Peace of Christ in our lives and hearts.
In his letter to the Colossians (3:12–15), the Apostle Paul instructs us in the ways by which we should seek to do this:
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
The devil always seeks to steal this peace from us; to destroy the first thing for which we pray in our Liturgy; fearing the Peace of Christ, which is the foundation of unity and the sign of His rule.
St Seraphim of Sarov said, “Make peace in your own heart and thousands around you will be saved…” and this is a truth that the devil fears, desiring neither peace in our hearts nor the salvation of a single person, let alone thousands – doing everything in his power to destroy peace and destroy human souls.
So, let us always be watchful and vigilant, knowing that he will use everything fallen and base in us to seek the destruction of peace, and to destroy our labour and striving for it in our lives: our personal weak points and passions, ego, jealousy, prejudices, power, authority, jealousy, ambition, our past sins, interpersonal dynamics and the fault-lines in relationships, anxieties and fears – whatever can be exploited to bring conflict and division and destroy PEACE.
Opposing this, we must always remember that when we choose to live and act in love and be at peace with one another, we are allowing Christ’s peace to rule in our hearts, making the Peace of Christ a reality in the Church and in the world, no matter how dark, destructive or violent the age and times in which we live.
Let us remain vigilant and struggle in the name of the Risen Lord, the Prince of Peace, who assures us,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
May the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!
Christ is Risen!