Measuring Peace

I’m sure we were all delighted to learn that the UK has become less violent and more peaceful during the past decade (see BBC report of the findings of the Institute for Economics and Peace here). Leaving aside the fact that few of us are probably able to judge whether the institute which made the claim used an acceptable or accurate method, still less to judge whether its comparison with other countries of western Europe is valid or not, I daresay some of us are wondering whether we can ever assess the hidden violence in our lives. I’m not thinking so much of the terrible stories one sometimes hears of domestic violence and the like as of the violence no one but God and ourselves knows anything about. You didn’t see my struggle with the lawn-mower yesterday, but I am perfectly well aware that the way I dragged it over the gravel was not . . . peaceful.

Peace is more than the absence of war or violence, but even though we Benedictines traditionally use ‘Pax’ (peace) as our motto, I’d be hard put to define what peace is. I know where peace is to be found: in the person of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I know that to attain peace we must pass through many trials and difficulties (the crown of thorns surrounding the word ‘pax’ on our motto). But measuring it? That’s a different matter. I think, in the end, it is a question of recognition not of definition or measuring. We see Peace dimly, through our tears, as Mary saw the Lord in the garden, after the Resurrection.

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7 thoughts on “Measuring Peace”

  1. I suspect that peace might be defined in terms of both our relationships with God and with each other?

    Certainly personal peace can be elusive (your quote about the lawn mower) is evidence of that – but sometimes we get a glimpse of it. I tend to feel this when with family and friends, where our relationships have been built up over many years and through good and bad times, where suffering has been part of that relationship and we have supported each other in love and compassion. Having people you know that you can turn to in an emergency, who you are not afraid to confide in and to talk through dilemmas and disasters knowing that their wisdom or just listening will be helpful. I know that I’ve been fortunate in this respect and that I do have those both Christian and Non-Christian who are there for me as I am there for them.

    Other places where personal peace can be found will be a quiet church, a place of retreat such as the Carmalite Community at Aylesford Priory, the Nuns at West Malling or the Ecumenical Community at Edenbridge. All close by, and places where I’ve been fortunate enough to find peace on retreat.

    I think that Holy Places are peaceful places and going to them is something of a pilgrimage – Canterbury Cathedral is one such place and I’m sure that there are thousands of others, of whatever denomination. Places where generations have worshipped seem to hold that Holiness in trust for future generations to share – what a wonderful gift from God!!

    But I believe that we need to share that peace and the good news that brings it – how often do we miss opportunities to share through embarrassment or confusion about what God is prompting us to do. If only those opportunities would be clear to us and enable God’s Grace and peace to be shared more – wouldn’t the world be a better place?

  2. “Peace is more than the absence of war or violence…” is, I submit, the start of a definition. All too often peace is defined in negative terms (including dictionaries), whereas peace must positively embrace an expression of love and understanding of the needs our fellow human beings.

    Consider a situation of which I have experience. We moved into our present house many years ago and it is only in very recent times that we have had any real communication with our next door neighbours. Were we at peace before then? There was certainly an absence of disagreement or unpleasantness but there was also an absence of friendliness and day to day chat that surely characterizes humans at peace with each other.

  3. I have often struggled with a definition. It has to be more than something that happens when things are going smoothly. It also has to be something attainable at some level (with God’s grace) – if it is too abstract it stops being important to us. We should work to make others feel it as well as striving for our own peace.

    I think it is similar to a state of mind when you can be truly yourself. No pretence, no need to feel threatened by being a real person. Glimpses of this when with good friends/family/very wise people. Similar feeling when “lost in thought” in a quiet church or in a beautiful landscape. We will have this experience fully and eternally one day…

  4. Thank you for your comments and reflections. I think the best way I can thank you all is by praying for your peace. The Hebrew word shalom, which we usually translate as peace, has so many shades of meaning. It implies a blessedness, a fullness, from which nothing can detract. May you know such peace in your lives.

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