December 6 / First Thursday of Advent
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace, in peace because in you they trust.~ Isaiah 26:3
One of the prayers that most fed my soul as I was growing up in the Episcopal Church — a prayer that still blankets me with comfort — is the postcommunion blessing. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” it begins, “keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” This peace: it originates in God, it is beyond our comprehension, it is part of the gift of love that God offers every day to “those of steadfast mind,” as Isaiah says, to those who trust in God.
But the English word “peace” is too broad to capture the significance of this gift. The Hebrew word here, shalom, carries the sense of being whole, of having unimpaired relationships, of fulfilling our responsibilities to others, of following the divine call. This kind of peace is rooted in the presence of God. And what leads us to experience that presence is both contemplation and action: the practice of prayer and the enacting of the promises we have made as baptized believers. These are the promises of love: love of God and love of neighbor. Shalom links prayer and practice: We acknowledge our trust in and dependence on God and give thanks for his mercy and love. Then, buoyed by that love and mercy, we find wholeness — peace — through acts of kindness, healing and justice. This divine peace may indeed surpass our understanding, but we still pray daily that it will keep our hearts and our minds in the knowledge of God.
Lord of love and wholeness, this day I ask you to bless me and keep me, to make your face shine upon me, and to give me your peace.Amen.