Our yearly motto, “Be at peace with one another and with all”, is taken from a hymn written by the famous hymnographer Kosmas of Maiouma of the 8th century. The verse is from the tropario of the 8th Ode of the Canon of the Holy Monday matins service and is chanted on Palm Sunday Evening. St Kosmas became bishop of Maiouma, a port-town near Gaza in modern day Palestine and helped defend the Church against the heresy of iconoclasm. This was a turbulent period. Having this in mind, how is it that St Kosmas still wrote the words “be at peace with one another and with all”? How do we begin to search, and acquire this peace that Christ asks of us?
Firstly, we need to have a purpose. Our purpose in life may be understood as the pursuit of holiness, to live a life of struggle, to free ourselves of our passions, to give our sins over to Christ who redeems us from them.
Secondly, we must forgive so that we can be forgiven: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. We need to pray for those who insult or hurt us. Whoever thinks evil of his enemies does not have love for God, and has not known God, says St Justin Popovic: “True love for man comes from love for God, and love for God grows in accordance with the keeping of His commandments”. St Gerasimos teaches us: “Children, live in peace and do not be arrogant”.
When peace dwells in a man’s heart, it enables him to contemplate the grace of the Holy Spirit from within. He who dwells in peace collects spiritual gifts, as it were, with a scoop and he sheds the light of knowledge on others.
Are we the person who keeps the peace in the home? Or at school, university, at work, or in the community? God offers us something that the world cannot give us, and that is His peace. In the Divine Liturgy, the priest blesses the faithful: “peace be to all”. We bow our heads humbly. In the gospel of John, our Lord tells us during the Last Supper, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). God’s peace is real and tangible.
The peace of God cannot coexist with fear or anxiety. As Christians, we often move between acquiring God’s peace inside us momentarily, and losing our focus on God and being filled with fear and doubt. This is the struggle that requires desire on our part, spiritual cultivation, and much care. The peace of God must be pursued and maintained.
Prayer is the single most important activity we must participate in to obtain the peace of God inside of us, and to reacquire it once it is lost. When we go into our room, close the door, and genuinely seek God with tears and contrition, we open ourselves to an encounter with God. We open the door to God’s grace which He freely gives to those who seek Him.
Our God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The events in the world, and at times even in our private lives, may seem chaotic and uncontrollable, but they are not, for there is a beginning and an end. We can let God take control. When we bring ourselves into contact with God, we realise that He can bring balance and stability to our lives.
The peace of God is a beautiful thing: it is there for each of us if we desire it. Pray in silence, flee from sin, stay on the path that accords with God’s will, guard your senses, and allow yourself to give up control and trust God. In this way, we can acquire the true peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7), and which will fill our minds and hearts.
I conclude with the experience of Hieromonk Philotheos of Mount Athos: “What is this that is happening to me! I asked for forgiveness and what I receive is beyond any notion of pardon and absolution. I was seeking to find some serenity, and the peace which is given to me cannot be expressed. I am aware that I was created to receive and give love but this love that I come upon is beyond my expectations. I was struggling to grasp onto some hope but what I find here is tangible serenity, real happiness. I don’t want to expect anything else. I don’t wish anything higher. I am at a loss with all this. I am puzzled and I say, ‘All this for me? Why? What have I done? How come I deserve this? Has a mistake been made?’”
Be at peace with one another and with all.
Source: February – March 2016 Lychnos Edition