At times I wonder how I can be so educated in my faith (13.5 years of formal Catholic education and counting) yet so clueless. Perhaps this somewhat rambling self-examination is out of place in the silence before what promises to be a happy Christmas morning, but I am wide awake and thinking.
Tonight at Mass I proclaimed (in a rather nasily, congested way) the traditional Christmas vigil passage from Isaiah, which includes the words, “The Prince of Peace… will rule with justice and peace now and forever. The love of our God will make this happen!”
My (somewhat predictable) quandary is summurized in this eloquent poem, which I found on Kristy’s blog tonight:
By Thomas Hardy
South of the Line, inland from far Durban,
A moldering soldier lies—your countryman.
Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,
And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know
By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?
And what of logic or of truth appears
In tacking ‘Anno Domini’ to the years?
Near twenty-hundred liveried thus have hied,
But tarries yet the Cause for which He died.”
I believe the traditional Catholic answer would go something like this:
God, who continually tries to bring us into closer relationship with Him, intends for Peace on Earth/ the Kingdom of God to come about not through any imposed method, but through God working among humanity. Christ came to show us how, and the Holy Spirit fills us to enable us to work for our own peace. God wants us to choose to re-create ourselves through His grace. Christ brought the salvation we seek, but not in the form of a traditional ruler: our servant-king offers us peace as a gift to be chosen.
That all makes sense. At some level, I think (at least I hope) that I accept it. But it’s all too easy to look at human history since Christ’s coming and ask if we’ve improved at all. I think it would be hard to answer positively. The easy road is to look at the sharp contrast between the true Christian way of life and our world today and despair of the two ever coinciding.
Is it possible? Well, it hasn’t happened yet, so it’s easy to say no. Faith calls us to say yes, and to work towards the realization of that possibility. It’s not so much that I disagree that it’s possible; what gnaws at me is the gap between the possibility and the realization.
“… will rule with justice and peace now…”
This is the part I struggle with the most. Where’s the now? I see the possibility, the hope for the future, but the now?
The answer that comes to mind is that the Prince of Peace can rule over our hearts now, and through that process His Peace can spread to the rest of the world. Thus, I come face to face with the unavoidable personal nature of my abstract questions: my personal relationship with God is the key to how I can offer Christ’s peace to the world. It’s also unavoidable that our relationship is not what it should be. My common, honest excuse is that prayer is awkward and I am busy. But it seems that if I’m going to go through with my current course of study (political science/ peace studies) and choice of career, things are going to have to change in this area of my life, so that it is no longer an area of my life but truly is my life. I suppose I’ve known that all along.
Merry Christmas. Welcome, Prince of Peace.