Tuesday 16 May 2017

Finding Peace

I am become in His presence as one finding peace.
(Song of Songs 8:10)

Medieval Catholic mystics loved what was then known as the Canticle of Canticles because it has so many layers of meaning. It can be read as the relationship between the soul seeking union with God and the Beloved object of that search. There is a transcendent dimension to this quest, a longing to  'dwell in this translucent darkness and, through not seeing and not knowing, to see Him who is beyond both vision and knowledge' as the writer called Dionysius the Areopagite put it. This indeed would be the very summit of peace, to be in the presence of the Blessed Trinity; adoring and loving.

Yet such a high aspiration seems very distant and enormously difficult to all but a handful of ordinary, simple Christians. Reflecting on this Pope Benedict XVI said 'in the end, the path to God is God himself, who makes himself close to us in Jesus Christ.' That is, to find peace in His presence it is only necessary to find Jesus. Or, to put it another way ' none knows the Father truly except the Son, and those to whom it is the Son’s good pleasure to reveal him.' (Matthew 11:27)

One of the effects of the Incarnation, of Jesus being both fully human and fully divine, is that heaven has been brought down to earth so that we who are earthy can be raised to heaven. When we become clothed with Christ we can enter into the presence of His Father and ours and so find the One who is Peace, Peace Himself. The mystical union ceases then to be the business of merely a few ascetics or philosophers and becomes the achievable object of all the baptised.

To find Jesus, though, doesn't mean simply to know His name or to profess faith in Him with our lips, though both these things are necessary. It is to enter into a loving relationship with Him in each of the places where we encounter Him. In the sacrament of the altar, in the liturgy, in the Gospels, in our prayers, in the depths of our own hearts. This continual exchange of love is both the path to divine union and the achievement of that union. We are in His presence always but it is only when we realise that presence through an outflowing and inflowing of love that we can say that we are also at peace now and forever.

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The painting is Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Rembrandt van Rijn.

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