Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Peace

"All I want for Christmas is a little peace."

"Peace on earth, goodwill to men."

"Peace and quiet"

I think we can all agree that peace is a good thing. Usually that's close to the root of what most of us are searching for. And many, if not most, of us feel like we can't ever really get there. This time of year the frenzy cranks up from the usual baseline and it's a struggle not to get caught up in it. But the frustrating search for peace is a year-round deal. I've certainly written on this before (and, to my sorrow, haven't learned anything.)

Peace isn't something that comes from the outside, but the inside. No matter where you go, be it a desert island, a monastery, the middle of a national forest, if you take your unpeaceful self with you, then you will not find peace. Certainly, humans need regular times of quiet, and disorder bothers some of us more than others, but that's not the definition of peace.


St. Seraphim of Sarov said, "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." Certainly, St. Porphyrios had to work on acquiring a peaceful spirit in the midst of thousands when he was serving a parish in Omonia Square in the middle of Athens.
It is a great art to succeed in having your soul sanctified.  A person can become a saint anywhere.  He can become a saint in Omonia Square, if he wants.  At your work, whatever it may be, you can become saints - through meekness patience and love.  Make a new start every day, with new resolution, with enthusiasm and love, prayer and silence - not with anxiety so that you get a pain in the chest. 
 -Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios              

Omonia Square in the 1960's
The majority of us don't have the luxury of running off to a quiet place whenever we want some peace. And even if we did, if we take our anxieties and troubles with us, then we will not find peace anywhere. For instance, once St. Nikolai Velimirovich replied to a priest who had repeatedly asked for a transfer to a new parish, “Father, I would be glad to grant your wish for a transfer if only you were not going to take your self there.”

That certainly is a clear answer to the "if only" whimpers: "If only I had more money / a bigger house / a better job / a nanny / a cry room at church..." Here are some more wise sayings on peace:
Our thoughts determine our whole life. If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek and simple, our life will be the same, and we will have peace within us. It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us - rational beings, animals, and even plants.
-Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, p.49

"Make peace with yourself, and both heaven and earth will make peace with you."
-St. Isaac the Syrian

Here on earth we are given the chance to conquer all evil with peace and stillness. We can have peace when we live in surroundings that are peaceful and quiet, but that peace is not as stable and as permanent as the peace we acquire while living in chaotic conditions. When you move from quiet surroundings to chaotic ones, your mood changes instantly and you become irritable - all of a sudden evil thoughts assail you, and your mind is in hell. That is the end of our peace. This is why the Lord guides us though sufferings and sorrows - so that we may, through them, acquire real peace. Without Him we would not have the strength to overcome these things.
--Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, p.154

And most importantly, here is what Christ assures us:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. [John 14:27]

5 comments:

  1. yes. good words here and very true.

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  2. Yes, very true, and the first steps to acquiring the spirit of peace is found in the words of our dear father St Herman of Alaska "For our good, for our happiness at least let us make a vow that from this day, from this hour, from this minute we shall strive to love God above all else and to fulfill His holy will.'”, and in the prayer of St. Ephrem, which should be part of our prayers during this fast period, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace. Lord have mercy on us, guide us through the fast and bring us into the joy of Your Nativity!

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  3. This is very beautiful. Thank you for writing it!

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  4. Thank you so much for this -- I really need to print it out and put it in my purse before we embark on our yearly overseas voyage for the holiday. -- Valja in Scandinavia

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  5. Your post reminded me of Saint Nicholas Planas, who also found peace in the middle of crowded Athens.

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