Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Peace of Christmas

Recently I have been reading two different books on the subject of 'peace of soul', "Searching for and Maintaining Peace:  A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart" by Fr. Jacques Philippe and "A Treatise on Peace of Soul" by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli (incidentally, both are rather short and definitely worth a read).  The principle of peace of soul finds it origin in the encounter of the prophet Elijah meeting God at Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings 19).  There was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but God was not found in any of these, God was found in a sound of sheer silence that followed.  Later spiritual writers came to understand that if we wish God to find a permanent dwelling in our souls, then we must make our souls a place of peace and silence as well.

So much today seems to distract us, pulling us in one direction or another, flustering us, angering us, all disturbing our peace of soul.  We lose our peace of soul ultimately through desire (desire of anything other than God).  We can lose our peace of soul even desiring good things, we can desire to be holy, then lose that peace of soul when we find ourselves not making as much progress towards holiness as we would like.  This total peace is described with the Hebrew word "shalom", this is the peace God wishes us, this is the peace the angel proclaims to the shepherds at the birth of Christ when he says, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests." (Luke 2:14)

It seems today though that Christmas produces the completely opposite effect, as we run from place to place, store to store, party to party.  Normally nice and calm people start to get frustrated and angry, shout expletives at one another, fight over something as ridiculous as a parking space at the mall.  The devil is constantly trying to rob us of our peace of soul, because if he succeeds we push God out, and start to make room for him instead.  The rampant secularization, and commercialization of Christmas seems to have that double effect, not only are we encouraged to forget the real reason for Christmas, but in the madness that ensues we lose that peace of soul in the hustle of the crowds.  From now on, let us all strive to be more aware, let us strive to rise above the Christmas craziness, let us strive to maintain that peace of soul even in the face of the madding crowds, then we will know the true peace of Christmas.

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