The Peace Of Christ

The Peace Of Christ November 12, 2023

Lawrence OP: Christ Our Peace / flickr

The incarnation works to unite humanity as one, a unity God intended humanity to have and would have had were it not for sin. The eschatological fate of humanity is to realize that unity given to it by the peace of Christ. Sin causes humanity to be divided up against itself, to fight against and destroy itself, while the incarnation works to heal that division and all the harm it has caused:

With the incarnation of the divine Logos in the person of Jesus Christ came the “spiritual man,” the second Adam. By the “natural man,” the first Adam, is not to be understood only one particular person among others but a personality synthesizing the whole of mankind according to nature, and the second Adam likewise is not only this individual but at the same time a universal being who sums up in himself the whole of reborn mankind; Christ is the spiritual centre of a universal organism in the real of eternal divine existence. [1]

In the incarnation, we see the immanentization of the eschaton; what will be realized in full in eternity is experienced in part in time. Christians are called to demonstrate this truth to the world, which is why Christian unity is important. Christians are called to continue the work of Christ in world history, to be priests of the new covenant. They should intercede for humanity, and for the rest of creation, working together to counter sin, not by judgment and condemnation, but by a self-sacrificial love which seeks to heal the rifts caused by sin:

The priestly ethos and dignity of man, which find its fulfillment in the eucharistic use of the world, unifies man’s life with that of the world, of God and of creation. It leaves no room for division or partition, and therefore presupposes that the division of human beings into sexes is transcended. This means that the priestly ethos and rank is not the exclusive prerogative of the male sex. The eucharistic use of the world, worked out in the human body itself, unifies the sexes in a common liturgical celebration of life. [2]

The unity which Christ brings is not just to humanity, but to the world; he realizes in himself the unity between God and the whole of creation:

Once again, there is but one world and it is not divided by its parts. On  the contrary, it encloses the differences of the parts arising from their natural properties by their relationship to what is one and indivisible itself. Moreover, it shows that both are the same things with it and alternately with each other in an unconfused way and that the whole of one enters into the whole of the other, and both fill the same whole as parts fill a unit, and in this way the parts are uniformly and entirely filled as a whole. [3]

St. Paul presents this truth in the way he explained that Christ is our peace: Christ works to break down the barriers established by sin. These barriers are based upon relative (and therefore real but not-absolute) distinctions found in the world. Christ does not remove the relative nature of such distinctions but by shows us how they must come together as one, how they are interdependent to each other, and because of that interdependence, they should rely upon and help each other instead of fight and struggle with each other:

For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end (Eph. 2:14-16 RSV).

Sin embraces such relative distinctions and absolutizes them so that the unity people are supposed to have with each other is lost, and once it is lost, hostility and conflict easily follows. Christ’s peace overcomes sin, and all the harm sin has caused to the world. That peace calls everyone to let go of their bitterness and hatred so that they can come together in love and realize the unity they are meant to have with each other. Christ’s peace, therefore, is not just any kind of generic peace, nor is it some kind of false peace, but it is the peace which reveals the eschatological end of humanity and helps bring it about.“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;  for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:17-18 RSV).

The peace of Christ, the peace brought into the world by the incarnation, is not just about the temporary absence of conflict, but the establishment of unity through love, so that all such conflict can be brought to an end. That love is not just any kind of love, either, but it is the love which the world takes it and receives and embraces and makes its own, the love given to it by the incarnation.

Love is the true counter to sin, while unlove is the true foundation of sin. When we receive God’s love and embrace it, it will transform us so we become one with it, and through our unity with it, we will find ourselves overcoming all hatred, forgiving those who need forgiveness, helping everyone realize we are in this together

Only love gives wisdom, only love gives vision, only love gives forgiveness. The one who loves receives the ability to look upon another as the other sees himself. We are divided from one another by self-love, self-concern, and self-interest. Our gaze is obscured by the partiality of our judgment and vision; we always, when thinking of another, think of ourselves, of our own feelings but not of the other and his feelings. We must feel what the other feels, and then our eyes will be opened. Through the experience of love one receives this experience of wisdom, the knowledge of the other, of one’s neighbor, of one’s friend. [4]

This is the peace of Christ: it is the peace of love, the peace which brings people together. Christ’s love is one with Christ’s peace. Everyone who partakes of it will find that it will lead them to share in and participate in Christ’s victory over sin. Unlove will give way to love, division will give way to unity. Selfishness, and the division such selfishness creates, will have no place within them because love will have exorcised that demonic power from their hearts. Christians truly need to embrace this peace and not just speak about it, for that is how they will realize their priesthood. Indeed, it is only through it can they truly understand what it means to be a Christian in the world.

[1] Vladimir Solovyey, God, Man & The Church. The Spiritual Foundations Of Life. Trans. Donald Attwater (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2016), 68.

[2] Christos Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality. Trans. Elizabeth Briere (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), 100.

[3] St. Maximus the Confessor, “The Church’s Mystagogy” in Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings. Trans. George C. Berthold (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 188-9.

[4] Sergius Bulgakov. Spiritual Diary. Trans. Mark Roosien and Roberto J. De La Noval (Brooklyn, NY: Angelico Press, 2022), 148-9 [8/21.V.1925].


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