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Christ our Peace -
a note by Jean Lauand
(Translated into English by Alberto Antenangeli)
“The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This expression, used during Mass, and often used by Catholics, has a very profound meaning. Particularly during Christmas time, the liturgy sings with Isaiah (9:5) that this child that is born to us is the “Lord Almighty” and the “Prince of Peace.” When we look in detail as to the meaning of “peace,” we find new and unexpected meanings to it. St. Paul uses a much stronger formulation – and, at first sight, somewhat cryptic: he does not say “the Lord’s peace” (the peace that belongs to Jesus, or is part of Jesus), but that Christ Himself is peace: “For he himself is our peace” – Autos ger estin he eirene hemon (Eph. 2:14).
A new meaning shows up when – following a trend of the contemporary exegesis – we turn ourselves to the thoughts and the Semitic word behind the Greek word used by Paul. This task becomes even more necessary when we read the explanation why Christ is our peace: He “has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14). What sounds strange to our western ears is, on the contrary, completely natural to a Semite.
The Semitic language frequently presents itself as “cumulative thought”: the same word – or root – accumulates in itself different meanings that, from our western perspective, require different words. Shalom (peace) not only means peace, but also unity, integrity – among other loosely connected meanings. For a Jew it is totally natural that Christ is our Shalom, since He has reestablished the unity, “has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier” (Eph. 2:14). He also abolished the law, making himself, from two, one new man: the peace (Shalom). In Col. 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” This peace that starts during the Christmas season breaks several walls, and creates new bonding. For example, there are no longer Jews and gentiles, Greek and barbarian, man and woman, servant and free, or even the “virtual walls” that divide a community: we are one in Christ. Let’s highlight two examples: 1. Christ reconciled the world to the Father (II Cor. 5:19). The Word that created all things (through Him and for Him all things were created – Col. 1:16), after the separation, breaking of Shalom, “through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:19-20). 2. As mentioned by St. Augustine (sermon 13 de Tempore: PL 39, 10097) and often times by John Paul II, “God became man so that man could become God.” Each one of us is one with Christ, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
All things in the world created by the Word were reconciled to God and (potentially) integrated into Christ through His incarnation, because the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And being one with Christ, we are called to reconcile, in fact, all things on Earth to Him, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8). For us, it is not hard to visualize this task: it goes from the walls of our indifference with God, our selfishness, to the injustice and exclusion. When you meditate on this, the Peace of our Lord Jesus acquires a new sense, one that was enabled by the prompt and unconditional yes – Fiat! – to which translates the love of His mother, Mary.