Peace Is


Today Seth contributes.  Enjoy.

Priest: Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

Priest: The Peace of the Lord be with you always.

All: And also with you.

Deacon or Priest: Let us offer each other a sign of peace.

***
I wandered into mass a confused fourth grade Baptist with a virgin nose to incense. It was a daunting place with unusual rituals—holy water, genuflecting, cross-signing. The other fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Overton, was Baptist too so she sat by me and explained the mass as it unfolded. With all of the sitting, standing, and kneeling, I remember thinking it much like a game of musical chairs except that no one was out when the music stopped. And if there wasn’t room for everyone at the Eucharist table, there was plenty of room at the table of peace.

The offering of peace in community was captivating even at such a young age. Upper-classmen shed the armor of status and exchanged peace with snot-nosed first-graders. Teachers were reduced to equality with their students as they received the words “peace be with you” from gap-toothed late bloomers. Sister Sarto gave the ultimate prize, whispering her peace with a deep Irish brogue.

The offering of peace was a leveler of playing fields, a status stripper, a simple act of humility.

***

Mr. Mahaffey ripped through concepts with the fervor of a college professor. It was a 101 style class taught for acne clad High School kids. Mahaffey was both demanding and encouraging, a Socratic pedagogical anomaly at the pre-undergraduate level. I remember him giving us a moment of silence before our tests in which we promised eternal sacrifice to the gods of our making in exchange for a passing grade. When the exams were returned, Mahaffey had marked each with a large red-letter grade and the word “Shalom.” Shalom to those who earned A’s. Shalom to those who earned F’s. Shalom to the great, the average, and the failed.

Kerri was a teenage alcoholic and a close friend. After exams one day, Mahaffey kept us after-class and extended Shalom to us both, first to Kerri in her recovery then to me who had not yet seen dark days. He was liberal with his peace, an equal-opportunity secular priest. He told us that we could each be agents of Shalom in each other’s lives.

Mahaffey was right.

***

My grandfather had been a big man. In his dwindling days, the bone thin ones where he whispered mirage memories and saw imaginary bears, he always remembered to extend peace. His last recalcitrant request for gin and tonic was followed by his offering of “peace” to his hospice worker. His final glory-days tale, the one that made me laugh until I cried (though respect mandates I never repeat it), was followed by “‘scuse me, Lord” and then “peace.” His final word to me whispered in confusion during a mental-meltdown was “peace.” It was his dying refrain.

***

Peace is for the student and the teacher. Peace.

Peace is for the passing and the failing. Peace.

Peace is for the large statured and the diminishing. Peace.

Peace equalizes.

Seth
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8 Comments

dearabbyleigh
Reply June 6, 2011

my favorite part of sundays in liturgical churches - pass that peace on.

John Ray
Reply June 6, 2011

Is peace the "anti-commidity"? The thing that can't be purchased or traded for, but only given and received?

    Seth (Your Husband)
    Reply June 6, 2011

    John,

    I actually thought about this a lot while working these thoughts out, though I didn't distill it as nicely as you did.

    Good words, man.

Matt S
Reply June 6, 2011

I have spent time in churches with the passing of the peace. I love the concept, I love the purpose, I hate the application.

Far too often peace is passed only to be recanted as soon as the church is in the rear-view mirror.

How can we make liturgical pace extend into actual peace? Any suggestions?

    Seth (Your Husband)
    Reply June 6, 2011

    Matt,

    I totally agree. In fact, one of the ironies of the offering of the peace at the grade-school level (Catholic school mass) is that the 6th grader who offered the 4th grader peace was often seen bullying him two hours later on the playground. A stark example, but it opperates much the same way in the adult world.

    I think we need to keep peace on our lips. Practically be willing to offer peace to those with whom we come into contact. Maybe think about the implications of our voting, purchasing, phrasing, etc... I'm not the best at this, I confess. I need to be better.

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