Peace (Advent Meditation) …

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
—Matthew 5:9

 

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
— Maya Angelou from Amazing Peace

 

Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice. Martin Luther King Jr. even distinguished between “the devil’s peace” and God’s true peace. A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.
― Shane Claiborne from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

 

One Moral Duty

You often said, “This is a sin against the spirit, it will be avenged.” Every sin against the spirit will be avenged, in man himself and in the world outside.

Let me just note down one more thing for myself: Matthew 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies. We make mental provision for the days to come, and everything turns out differently, quite differently. Sufficient unto the day. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God. Everything will turn out all right with my residence permit and with my ration book; right now there’s no point in brooding about it, and I would do much better to write a Russian essay. Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.

— Etty Hillesum from An Interrupted Life the Diaries, 1941-1943 and Letters from Westerbork

 

The Edge of Center

All tempest has,
Like a navel,
A hole in it’s middle,
Through which
A gull can fly,
In silence.
– Fourteen-Century Japanese, Anonymous

From across the centuries, this nameless voice tells us that at the heart of all struggle there is a peaceful enduring center, if we can only reach it. All the wisdom traditions affirm this.

Still, a deeper paradox of life is carried here. For the gull flies through the peaceful center; it does not live there. The work, it seems, for us is to draw sustenance from that central, eternal space without denying the experience of the storm.

Repeatedly, we are thrown into the storm and into the center. When in the storm, we are exacerbated by our humanness. When in the center, we are relieved by our spiritual place in the Oneness of things. So to find the center and spread our battered wings is to feel the God within.

Our constant struggle is in living both sides of this paradox. For we cannot get to the center without going through the storm that surrounds it. Yet the storm of human experience can only be endured by knowing what the gull knows. The storm can only be survived from the center. In how we pass each other from storm to center and back—there you’ll find the trials and gifts of love.

— Mark Nepo from Things That Join the Sea and the Sky

 

Foreseen in Joy

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

—  Wendell Berry from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (X of The Sabbath Poems)

 

For Peace (Evening Prayer)

As the fever of day calms towards twilight
May all that is strained in us come to ease.

We pray for all who suffered violence today,
May an unexpected serenity surprise them.

For those who risk their lives each day for peace,
May their hearts glimpse providence at the heart of history.

That those who make riches from violence and war
Might hear in their dreams the cries of the lost.

That we might see through our fear of each other
A new vision to heal our fatal attraction to aggression.

That those who enjoy the privilege of peace
Might not forget their tormented brothers and sisters.

That the wolf might lie down with the lamb,
That our swords be beaten into ploughshares

And no hurt or harm be done
Anywhere along the holy mountain.

― John O’Donohue from Eternal Echoes

 

O Great Spirit
help me always speak the truth quietly,
to listen with an open mind when others speak
and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.
— Cherokee Prayer

 

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